Will the Great Pacific Garbage Patch Meet Its Match? Floating Trash Collector Just Left San Francisco on a Mission

by on September 11, 2018 · 2 comments

in Environment

Will the Great Pacific Garbage Patch soon meet its match? We may soon know as a giant, floating trash-collector steamed out of San Francisco on a mission Saturday, September 8, to clean it up.

And some see the effort as a turning point in the campaign to rid the world’s oceans of plastic trash. Amid the accolades for the project – the creation of Boyan Slat, a 24-year-old Dutch college dropout who raised more than $30 million on a five-year quest to build an ocean-cleaning machine – are also some harsh criticisms.

In the meantime the floating garbage collector with a nearly a 2,000-foot boom will collect ocean plastics from the gigantic garbage gyre over the next year. And it will face many questions and issues in its quest.

Laura Parker at National Geographic just recently published an examination into all of this.

Over the course of the next year, the device will undergo the ultimate tests and face some tough questions: Can technology prevail over nature? Did the engineers at The Ocean Cleanup in the Netherlands invent the first feasible method for extracting large amounts of plastic debris from the sea? Or will the wilds of the open Pacific tear it to shreds, turning the cleaner itself into plastic trash? Alternately, even if a Pacific storm does not devour the device, will it attract marine animals such as dolphins and turtles and fatally entangle them?

“I don’t think it’s going to work, but I hope it does,” says George Leonard, the Ocean Conservancy’s chief scientist. “The ocean needs all the help it can get.”

…[Slat’s] inspiration dates to a holiday diving trip in Greece he took as a teenager, where he encountered so much plastic, he decided to make cleaning up the ocean his mission. Back home in the Netherlands, he quit his aerospace engineering studies at the Delft University of Technology and founded the nonprofit Ocean Cleanup, where he is now CEO with a staff of 65 engineers and scientists.

The praise for Slat’s effort so far has been lavish and the criticism harsh. He has won accolades from the King of Norway, a top environmental award from the United Nations, and his name appears on various lists, including one by Forbes magazine, of rising young entrepreneurial leaders. He has also been taken to task by scientists for under-estimating the potential risks to marine life the device will create. …

More fundamentally, some say the project diverts attention away from what is regarded as a more cost-effective, consequential way to save the oceans—by preventing plastic trash from flowing into it in the first place. “What’s floating on the surface of the ocean gyres is only three percent of the plastics that enters the ocean every single year,” says Eben Schwartz, marine debris program manager for the California Coastal Commission. “I understand why people are fascinated by this bright, shiny new object. But it’s sort of a digital solution to an analogue problem. The solution to plastic pollution entering our ocean starts on land.” For the remainder.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter from South O September 11, 2018 at 2:13 pm

By all means read the rest of the article (“the remainder”). Find out what they plan on doing with the recovered plastic.

Hint: Ship it to Europe. Seriously.


Michael Alden September 4, 2019 at 9:59 pm

I must say that I am glad that there is this type of topic on the Internet as people don’t pay much attention to ocean cleaning and how important it is. We all should help those organizations even minimal. I will focus on 4Ocean as they are close to me. Subscription is not expensive at all but it is worth it.


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