We have been following the news about the Giant Floating Trash Collector that is being deployed in the Pacific Ocean to round up the enormous masses of plastic waste we now know as the Giant Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). This is the creative invention of the very young environmental entrepreneur Boyan Slat and his organization, The Ocean Cleanup. After years of planning, on September 8, 2018, the System 001 was en route from San Francisco Bay to the GPGP to begin the first full scale working model of the controversial plastic cleanup system. This initial system “consists of a 600-meter-long (2000 ft) U-shaped floating barrier with a three-meter (10 ft) skirt attached below. The system is designed to be propelled by wind and waves, allowing it to passively catch and concentrate plastic debris in front of it. Due to its shape, the debris will be funnelled to the center of the system. Moving slightly faster than the plastic, the system will act like a giant Pac-Man, skimming the surface of the ocean.” Read the Ocean Cleanup September 8, 2018 Press Release: https://www.theoceancleanup.com/press/the-worlds-first-ocean-cleanup-system-launched-from-san-francisco/
The Ocean Cleanup’s System 001 launch video is a 60 second time lapse of the maiden voyage out to sea – you can see more of their videos on their website.
You can read more about the project’s September 11, 2018 update ScienceMag.org posted – see update/excerpt below:
*Update, 11 September, 9:55 a.m.: A high-profile and controversial effort to collect and haul away plastic trash in the ocean is finally going to sea. A massive tugboat left San Francisco Bay this weekend, pulling a long sinuous boom constructed by The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The device, which is intended to catch plastic trash floating at the surface, will be tested for 2 weeks about 400 kilometers offshore. If it does well, the boom will be towed to a concentration of floating trash about 2200 kilometers from California. Although the original design called for a few trash collectors each with a 200-kilometer span, revised plans called for many smaller collectors with 1-kilometer-long booms. The current system has been scaled down further, to 600 meters in length. The Ocean Cleanup hopes to make its first pickup run in 6 months, shipping the trash back to shore and converting it into promotional objects to help cover costs. As Science reported below on 11 May 2017, critics are skeptical of the project, which some see as well-intentioned but misguided.
Troubling new data is finding that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing, and at an alarming rate.
Nature.com recently published a scientific abstract detailing improved methods for collecting data and their findings. The studies are on-going, however, one thing is certain; the amount of plastic waste in the Pacific Garbage Patch is much higher than had been thought – by a factor of nearly 16 times, The entire article “Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic” can be found at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22939-w#ref-CR21 where you can read more details, view the data and graphs and download the Citation. The graphic and information we quoted below are from the article and illustrate the new findings.
A research team combined net tow data with information from vessel-based visual sighting surveys. They found that while small, millimetre-sized pieces (<4.75 mm) count in trillions at global scale, they only represent a small mass portion (13%) of the total available buoyant material.
Our plastic mass estimate for the GPGP (~79 k tonnes) was nearly sixteen times higher than a previous study (~4.8 k tonnes) that used net trawl data only and four times higher than another assessment (~21 k tonnes) that combined net trawl data with vessel-based visual surveys. We suggest that the increase in the estimate is mainly explained by the use of more robust methods for quantifying macro- and megaplastics over larger sea surface areas. For instance, aerial imagery allowed us to more accurately count and measure the size of sighted objects, which undeniably reduced uncertainties in mass estimates when compared to vessel-based visual surveys. Nonetheless, differences between estimates could also be attributed to increasing levels of ocean plastic pollution in the area, and particularly plastic inputs from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami.
We are eagerly awaiting the latest updates about the Ocean Cleanup’s System 001. Some disagree that this bold concept will be effective in combating and controlling ocean plastics, but it is a step in the right direction. Critics think it is a waste of money and takes attention away from the real issues, one of which is banning single -use plastics. Without taking action and inventing new tools and technology, our oceans are doomed. And without our oceans, humanity will find it difficult to exist on our Blue Planet.
If The Ocean Cleanup is successful, the plastic waste collected will need to be disposed of and presents a perfect opportunity for Waste to Energy conversion, a win-win for the environment and for production of clean energy. Gekkco Energy is a green energy company developing clean and safe Waste-to-Energy (WtE) plants. Find out more at Gekkco Energy’s website.