The organization, The Ocean Cleanup is set to launch the world’s first machine to clean up the planet’s largest mass of ocean plastic.
The controversial system, dreamed up by founder Boyan Slat, will be shipped out this summer to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and spans 617,763 square miles across the Pacific. Around 40 percent of the patch is made up of ghost gear, which contains abandoned and lost fishing gear such as nets, ropes, and lines. New reports have found that ghost gear kills 100,000 dolphins, sea turtles and other animals a year by becoming entangled.
The hope is that the cleaning device will be able to collect half of the garbage contained in the patch within five years. The team is currently finishing up the assembly of the machine by welding together giant tubes that will sit on the surface of the sea and form the skeleton of the machine, which will create the largest floating barrier ever.
The mechanism to clean out the mass of trash in the Pacific is designed with 40 foot pipes- which ironically, are made of plastic- that will be put together to form a long, snaking tube. The tubes, filled with air, will float on the ocean surface in an arc with nylon screens hanging down below forming a giant floating dustpan to catch the plastic trash that gathers together when pushed by natural ocean currents.
The floater pipe section in this picture represents just 10% of the length of the ocean cleanup system once fully assembled. pic.twitter.com/RdnmM11XuW
— Boyan Slat (@BoyanSlat) April 16, 2018
Many have been very critical of the project arguing the project will backfire due to the ocean breaking down the main components of the machine , the likeliness of more fish becoming entangled while bringing together trash in a smaller space, and the fact that the machine does not collect any micro plastics.
Marine experts across the world have voiced their opinion against the project including shark expert, Dr. David Schiffman who tweeted, “You guys. The “ocean cleanup” is not a revolutionary and great idea. It is a bad idea not endorsed by any serious ocean plastic experts. It will very likely not do any good, and will likely cause harm. Stop uncritically praising it.”
You guys. The "ocean cleanup" is not a revolutionary and great idea. It is a bad idea not endorsed by any serious ocean plastic experts. It will very likely not do any good, and will likely cause harm. Stop uncritically praising it.
— Dr. David Shiffman (@WhySharksMatter) April 20, 2018
Opponents to the project believe that focusing on reducing the use of plastic as a society and other methods of clean up such as collecting trash at the mouth of rivers, beach clean-ups and storm water debris nets are much better practical solutions.
Currently Up to 90 per cent of the world’s plastic items are never recycled, and scientists believe nearly every piece ever created is still in existence somewhere, in some form, with most going into landfill or the environment. Single-use plastic, such as water bottles and nappies, take 450 years to break down.
The Ocean Cleanup team is aiming to launch the beginnings of the system from the shores of San Francisco Bay within weeks and hope to have it working by the beginning of July. Although there are opponents of the system, it does appear to be full throttle forward with the system and we will be waiting to see the outcome.