A radical solution to ocean pollution just touched down in the North Sea.
Developed by the Dutch nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup, the 328-foot-long barrier is designed to pull garbage from the surrounding waters so that it can be removed and recycled.
The device uses a system of underwater barriers that are anchored to the sea floor. Over time, currents move trash toward the barriers, which trap the litter until it can be collected for proper disposal.
The barrier is a prototype, and is currently being used in a pilot study. If successful, it could lead to a full-scale program in which the nonprofit brings a 62-mile-long barrier to the infamous Great Pacific garbage patch.
This patch, known formally as a gyre, is located between California and Hawaii.
Due to a phenomenon caused by Earth’s rotation, tons of plastic makes its way toward the gyre every year, where it collects and circles around for years.
Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat says he was just 16 years old when he realised during a trip to Greece how bad the problem of ocean pollution really was. He made it his mission to fight pollution on a global scale.
Slat’s latest prototype uses a V-shaped design to guide plastic toward the middle of the array. A collection bin then traps the garbage so cleanup crews can remove it and recycle it.
Slat says his method could cut the size of the Great Pacific garbage patch in half over a 10-year period, but some scientists are sceptical about the scope of Ocean Cleanup’s project.
They say the mission distracts from the larger goal of getting people to stop polluting the oceans — and that Slat’s solution could become a 62-mile-long excuse to dump more trash into the ocean, since there’d already be a barrier to catch it.
Slat and his team will test the prototype until 2020. If the data shows proof of concept and the materials don’t rupture, they will bring it to the Pacific for full-scale application.
Plastic pollution is an enormous problem, so perhaps that means it needs an equally sizable solution.