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A Giant Floating Machine is About to Begin Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The high-tech system is fitted with devices such as solar-powered lights, sensors, cameras, and satellite antennae.



Ocean Cleanup Pacific Garbage Patch

(TMU) — In the latest attempt to cope with the spiraling crisis of plastic waste blighting the world’s oceans, a giant floating machine meant to capture plastic waste is being deployed for a second time. The machine’s operators hope to put a dent in the swelling Great Pacific Garbage Patch floating between California and Hawaii.

According to Boyan Slat, a creator of The Ocean Cleanup Project, the 2,000-foot long floating boom will be redeployed in the area of the island of trash on Tuesday.

The machine was shipped out to the patch last September to capture some of the floating trash. Unfortunately, due to rough weather conditions, the boom was unable to retain the plastic that was caught during its four months at sea and ultimately broke apart, according to Associated Press.

In a tweet, Slat said:

“Hopefully nature doesn’t have too many surprises in store for us this time.

Either way, we’re set to learn a lot from this campaign.”

The machine has a plastic barrier with a tapered 10-foot-deep screen that simulates a coastline in order to trap some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic debris estimated to be swirling around in the patch.

The high-tech system is fitted with a variety of devices such as solar-powered lights, sensors, cameras, and satellite antennae that allow The Ocean Cleanup Project to keep tabs on it via GPS while also using a dedicated support vessel to collect the trapped plastic every few months before bringing it back to dry land.

Ocean life is able to safely swim around the gigantic boom and, according to the marine biologists who accompanied its first run from the support vessel, no adverse environmental impact has resulted from the system’s deployment.

Slat hopes that if the system proves useful, 60 such devices will one day be deployed to skim garbage from the ocean’s surface.

In recent years, experts and conservationists have sounded the alarm over the plastics and microplastics that are inundating the world’s oceans and water supplies, leaching carcinogenic toxins and chemicals into the marine environment. In the meantime, plastic drink containers and trash used by fishers are trapping, confining, and ultimately killing marine wildlife such as birds and fish.

The plastic pollution has reached such massive proportions that an estimated 100 million tons of it can now be found in the world’s oceans, according to the UN. Between 80 and 90 percent of it comes from land-based sources. And according to a report prepared for the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by 2050 it is estimated that plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh all fish.

In 1997, ocean researcher Charles Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Years later, he told CBS News that plastics are a leading cause of environmental devastation across the world, adding:

“Humanity’s plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint.”

Featured image credit: Ocean Cleanup Project

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons |

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