Slat’s invention is remarkably straightforward. While other proposals suggest energy intensive and cost-prohibitive methods of retrieving plastic with nets and ships, Slat devised a passive floating barrier system that uses the natural circulating power of the ocean currents to concentrate the plastic. Feasibility studies and computer modeling suggest that a single, 100-kilometre-long floating barrier in place for ten years would remove almost half of the plastic in the North Pacific Gyre. The “Ocean Cleanup Array" is configured in a V-shape with two 50-kilometre-long arms concentrating the plastic to a collection platform at the center. Solar panels will provide power, and it is expected that the 10,000 m3 platform will be emptied every six weeks. Most of the plastic is found within three metres of the surface and tests conducted in the Atlantic confirmed that plastic travels along the barriers. Ocean Cleanup is on schedule to start sea trials of the technology in 2016, and they hope to be full-scale within three or four years.
Prevention is an essential part of stopping plastic pollution, and Ocean Cleanup stresses that individuals, corporations and governments all have roles to play. Pollution can be prevented through changes in consumer habits, sustainable product design, preventing spillage by producers, and improved collection through better infrastructure. In addition, alternatives to plastic can be introduced, high-risk products can be banned, and recycling methods can be enhanced to improve the value of plastic as a raw material.
Is it possible to remove all the plastic from global oceans? No. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try, and we are certainly capable of reducing how much is entering the oceans from now on.
For more information visit the Ocean Cleanup website: http://www.theoceancleanup.com/