Earth’s oceans have a problem. It is well known there is a huge area of plastic swarming in the Pacific Ocean. We thought the ocean was so large we could use it as a dump or not worry about stuff ending up there.
Ordinary garbage may degrade, but plastic breaks up into small particles ingested by fish. This results in elimination of species and toxic chemicals entering the human diet.
The fact that the polluted area is a garbage patch is due to rotating ocean currents, which swirl and collect the garbage. About two years ago, a young Dutchman, Boyan Slat came up with the idea of using the ocean currents to concentrate the garbage by appropriate placement of floating barriers to allow the currents to bring the plastic garbage to one spot instead of sending ships dragging nets across an area over the size of Texas.
Slat’s non-profit organization, Ocean Cleanup, is being crowd sourced and first wants to identify the size and pinpoint the location of the problem in order to place floating barriers. He has discovered that the patch is growing at an alarming rate. A 60 kilometer prototype barrier has recently been put in place 12 miles off the Dutch coast in order to test its ability to withstand storms.
The estimated cost for the cleanup, which is expected to take 10 years, is around 3% of the cost of conventional cleanup methods. This excludes the expected resale value of the extracted plastic, which will reduce costs even further.
Some scientists believe that entire oceans are a smog of small plastic particles posing a seemingly intractable problem to cleanup, but let’s cross our fingers that we’ve found an affordable cleanup for a huge patch of the stuff.
The articles I read said nothing about the obvious need to stop plastic from getting into the ocean in the first place. I wonder how many of our grocery bags end up there. I know how I’m voting on keeping the California ban against use of plastic bags.