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Water Today Title October 22, 2020

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Update 2018/9/13


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By Michelle Moore

A team from non-profit organization The Ocean Cleanup in The Netherlands, departed from San Francisco on Saturday for a 200 nautical mile journey with the goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

After seeing more plastic bags than fish during a diving trip in Greece as a teenager, Boyen Slat created The Ocean Cleanup, which now has a staff of 65 engineers and scientists. He is also the creator of the ocean-cleaning machine.

The ocean-cleaning machine has now embarked on it's pilot project. After spending a year building it in Alameda California, the team towed it out into international waters for some last tests before beginning the trip toward the Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Pacific Garbage Patch is where ocean garbage collects in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre due to circular currents. The NGO's ambitious goal is to cut the size of the patch by half in 5 years.

First discovered in 1988, the Pacific Garbage Patch is now three times the size of France or 1.6 million square kilometres according to The Ocean Cleanup.

Slat's team of scientists estimate that some 79 000 tons of abandoned fishing gear contribute to the garbage patch in addition to microplastics which have been created by waves and sunlight degrading larger pieces of plastic overtime.

The almost 2000-foot-long boom is expected to be in place by mid October and will remain for one year. The device resembles a conventional oil boom, but instead of collecting and trapping oil, its is designed with a 3-metre-long net to collect garbage.

Because this is its first ever test no one knows if it will be successful. Worse still, some have wondered if it will entangle aquatic life or break apart in stormy weather conditions and simply add to the problem of ocean plastic.

The boom is made of 4 feet in diameter high density polyethylene pipe. It will sit on the surface of the water in a U-shape and will be free to float around according to changes in wind and currents to avoid being impacted by wave energy.

The Ocean Cleanup's engineers designed the boom to survive a 100-year storm and mounted lights, cameras, sensors, satellites to enable their team to easily locate it. The device even has an anti-collision system to avoid collisions with ships.

The team estimates that between 100 000 and 150 000 pounds of garbage will be collected in the first year if the project is a success. If so, they plan to build and deploy 59 larger devices for a total of 60.


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