Twenty-year-old Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup, has created a way that will help put an end to the plastic pollution problem in world oceans through innovative technology set to deploy in 2016.
Around eight million tons of plastic enters the ocean waters every year, and The Ocean Cleanup is initiating the largest cleanup in history by using technology that helps extract and prevent plastic pollution.
They are taking a different approach in cleaning up the plastic by letting the plastic accumulate itself rather than going after the plastic. This method will help to reduce the amount of time and money needed to completely remove all of the debris.
This debris takes a toll on the environment, economy and our health. Natural ecosystems, marine mammals and species are all at risk due to the amount of plastic pollution.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that globally, the debris causes at least $13 billion each year for fishing, shipping, tourism and cleaning of coastlines industries. The West Coast of the U.S. alone spends around $500 million every year to clean up beaches.
As stated on The Ocean Cleanup website, our health is at risk from the toxic chemicals absorbed by the plastic. These chemicals and pollutants bio-accumulate in the food chain, resulting in higher concentration of pollutants inside fish, including ones consumed by humans.
By using the natural movement of the ocean current, the plastic will concentrate itself into the long floating barriers that are attached to the seabed. These scalable barriers are designed for large-magnitude deployment and allows for millions of square miles to be covered without moving 0.39 of an inch (centimeter). The currents flow underneath the structure (booms), taking away the risk of neutrally buoyant sea life being caught while the plastic collects in the floating barrier.
The plastic collected will be stored in an internal buffer that will be emptied around every one and a half months depending on the vessel used. Once the plastic is extracted from the oceans, the plastic would be suitable to be converted into oil or turned into new objects as stated in an feasibility report from The Ocean Cleanup .
This cleaning system is set to be deployed in 2016 by The Ocean Cleanup. A possible place of deployment is Tsushima, an island located between Japan and South Korea.
At 6,561.68 feet (2,000 meters), it will be the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean. The system will be operational for at least two years, catching the plastic before it reaches the shores of the proposed location of Tsushima.
This deployment is just one of the projects The Ocean Cleanup is taking on in their mission to remove plastic pollution from the oceans.
"Within five years, after a series of deployments of increasing scale, The Ocean Cleanup plans to deploy a 100km-long (62.1371-mile-long) system to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California," Ocean Project stated in a press release.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area where debris piles up due to rotating ocean currents, and it is comprised of the Eastern Garbage Patch and the Western Garbage Patch. These areas are linked together by the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone. This zone helps move debris from one patch to another.
A study found that more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are currently in the ocean. Another study identified that over a third of the plastic is concentrated in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located in the North Pacific Ocean.