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March 27, 2013

Ocean Array to the Rescue in Plastic Cleanup



Don't drink the water; it's plastic.

Most of us are familiar with the dreadful Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, the continent (double the size of the U.S.) of plastic trash just existing – alien-like, non-dissolvable – in the gyre of the central North Pacific Ocean. But this isn't the only hunk of polymer humans have discarded into the deep blue, increasingly polluted sea.

There are four other sizable patches blobbing around out there, and they're all seriously bad news for the environment.

Wildlife often mistake the synthetic pieces for food, and usually croak as a result – not to mention the fact that once consumed by small sea creatures, these chemical particles enter the human food chain.

The problem is so massive, that it seems nearly unconquerable to many – but not to the 19-year-old entrepreneur Boyan Slat. The Dutch developer is determined to help defeat the plastic sea monster implemented by good ole mankind. Slat is designing an array of floating devices made to clean up more than seven million tons of the plastic suspended in the top layers of the affected gyres.

That's equivalent to 1,000 Eiffel Towers. 

Slat proposes that the army of devices – powered by the sun and waves – would be made of manta-ray-shaped platforms connected in a zig-zagging pattern and affixed to the seabed. Natural ocean currents would drive plastic debris toward the platforms. Long, floating booms (as opposed to nets) would be used to sift the plastics from the water. 

Slat's plan looks to help rescue the ocean literally from top to bottom. He has discovered that zooplankton, those microscopic little guys who are essential to the food chain, can be removed safely with his system using a centrifuge. Oh, and Slat also says he'll become a millionaire from recycling all the plastic he collects. Hey, why not?

You can hear more about Slat's plan in his TED talk, here on his website.




Edited by Braden Becker

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