Plastics are amazing products. They are more or less inert, are cheap to produce and last a long time. Sadly, that last characteristic makes them a nuisance to clean up. Sure, a lot of them can be recycled pretty well, but that is assuming they get disposed of properly. Far too much of the plastics we use in our daily lives finds its way into the ocean where they drift for years and years and years, wreaking havoc in the delicate ocean ecosystem.
A 19-year-old Dutch engineering student, Boyan Slat, has just proposed what could be an answer to all that plastic floating around in our oceans, which he has called the Ocean Cleanup Array. The concept behind it is simple: tether two dozen sifters to the ocean floor, at places where the currents naturally deposit plastic debris, letting the water do the work for you. This will involve miles and miles of interconnected booms that will serve to snag and capture the garbage. It is simple in its execution, and there is a bonus: the plastic gathered by the lines can be taken back to land and sold, making the entire project profitable. By Slat’s estimates, the amount of plastic gathered by the project would make more than the total project’s cost.
While this is a great plan on paper, there are a few things that need to be looked into, such as the effect of such large collecting stations on plankton, and the chance marine creatures could get snagged along with the debris. Still, if those things are found to not be a problem, this could be a great answer to the massive amounts of floating refuse in the oceans, and could prove a profitable endeavor to boot.