Plastic is an incredibly convenient invention; we use it for just about everything, bottles, bags, storage items, dishes, the list goes on and on. But sadly, there is a major cost that comes with this convenience. Although we might try our best to recycle as much plastic as possible, only around five percent gets reclaimed. The other 95 ends up in landfills and, predominantly, the oceans.
There is an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic floating on the surface of the world’s oceans … and this is just the surface. Adding to this surface plastic are tiny microplastics that we can’t see; a recent study found that 88 percent of ocean water contains thousands of floating microplastics. What’s worse is that this plastic has a serious impact on marine species.
It is estimated that around 700 species, some of which are already endangered, are threatened with extinction due to the presence of plastic. And this is only set to get worse as our plastic use continues.
Twenty-year-old Boyan Slat, however, believes he has a solution for this persistent problem. The Ocean Cleanup is an organization founded by Slat that has developed a three-pronged action plan that utilizes technology to help remove plastics from the oceans while preventing more plastic from entering.
The first part of The Ocean Cleanup’s plan is “extraction.” Using a specially designed array of oceanic barriers that concentrates plastic pollution for removal. Slat and his team estimate that this system will be able to remove over half of the plastic debris from the Pacific Garbage Patch over the course of just 10 years. The next phase “prevention,” involves raising awareness for plastic pollution and working towards solutions. The final phase “intervention,” aims to design smaller passive plastic collection units in river deltas and waterways to prevent more plastic from entering the oceans.
If all goes according to plan, The Ocean Cleanup plans to launch their pilot project off the coast of Tsushima, Japan in 2016.
“The reason we picked that location is because the current and wave conditions are very favorable for our tests, and there really is a lot of plastic,” Slat told the Red Dirt Report. “The island where we performed the test sees 30,000 cubic meters of trash wash ashore per year.”
If this initial project is successful, the team has plans to expand the array over the course of the next five years to cover a stretch of 62 miles of ocean.
This innovative project has the potential to stymie the very real damage that we’ve done to the world’s oceans in the form of plastic pollution. We can all lend a hand to Slat and his team, as well as the world’s many marine species, by cutting plastic out of our lives whenever possible. To learn more about how you can start, click here.
Good luck, The Ocean Cleanup!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
All image source: The Ocean Cleanup