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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

End Of The Garbage Patch?
Hugh Bollinger

End Of The Garbage Patch?

Ocean plastic removal system concept (credit: Ocean Cleanup)

Besides impacts due to climate change, marine plastic pollution represents one of the greatest global environmental problems that exists. It has been estimated that discarded could out-weight ocean fish in a few short years.

Consisting of single-use plastic bags, bottles, containers, and toys, the waste flows down rivers into the oceans producing gigantic gyres of floating debris. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now the size Texas and four others exist around with world. The plastic not only contaminates the oceans but is a major threat to marine mammals, birds, and turtles. It can also potentially enter the human food chain as it is pulverized by currents and consumed by commerical fish like tuna and salmon.

     Great Pacific Garbage Patch (credit: YouTube)                   Oceanic gyres (credit: Wikicommons)

Novel solutions have been proposed but technology 'scalability' to deal with the problem has been a limiting factor so far. Now, a Canadian organization, Ocean Cleanup, may have developed a practical and scalable way to address this massive problem. They have designed and tested a floating net structure that is slowly trawled through an expanse of ocean, capturing the debris on the surface of the water. The sieves are attached to dual ships at each end of the siphon that pushes the plastic into a pouch at the back of the net. The collected waste is recycled into pellets that can be used to manufacture new products. Strong sunglasses are already available from an Italian eyeware maker.

Ocean Cleanup has shown a proof-of-concept and they plan deploying additional vessels to comb the gyre to remove the debris. Will this be an end to the Pacific garbage patch? We will see how widely their innovative technology is adopted. WHB

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