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Friday, April 3, 2015

Good morning,

I have written before in Living Green about the so-called 'Great Pacific garbage patch'. It is a virtual continent of plastic debris and garbage floating around in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

It is a sad legacy of 100 years of industrialization and irresponsible waste disposal.

But what can we do about it? You can't drag nets around an area the size of Texas. Maybe not, but you can let the garbage come to you...thanks to the invention of a 20-year-old Dutch engineering student named Boyan Slat.

Thanks for reading,

Your Living Green editor

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Dutch engineering student Boyan Slat created The Ocean Cleanup concept with the aim of clearing the oceans of their plastic gyres - floating islands made of millions of pieces of waste that accumulate where currents converge.

There are currently five major gyres, containing millions of pieces of plastic per square kilometer that are constantly moving in a rotating formation. The gyres contribute to the estimated 500 million kilos of plastic waste currently floating in the world's oceans.

Previous proposals for removing this waste have involved using nets and basic trawling operations, but have been considered too expensive and possibly damaging to wildlife.

Slat's proposed solution involves 100 kilometers of floating filters that stay static, rather than being pulled through the water, and act as a barrier to collect waste.

"A cleanup of our oceans has always been deemed impossible, costing billions of dollars and thousands of years," said a statement from Slat's The Ocean Cleanup organization.

"[Our] solution is a concept to passively clean the oceans of plastic in just several years' time. The concept would utilize the natural currents to let the oceans clean themselves, in what would become the largest cleanup in history."

Described as "the largest structure ever deployed on the oceans", the barriers would be arranged in two 50-kilometre arms connected to a central platform, forming a V-shape.

These would only filter the top three meters of water, as Slat's studies found that this was where the highest concentration of plastic rubbish could be found in the world's oceans. The main currents run deeper than this, reducing the potential for "bycatch" - fish and other ocean life that get caught and die.

As plastic is caught in the array, the motion of the water would push it naturally towards the platform, where the debris can be extracted and sorted.

"Almost half of the plastic within the North Pacific Gyre - about 70,000,000 kilograms - can be removed within 10 years," it added.

According to Slat, a large amount of the plastic collected could then be recycled or turned into oil products using a chemical process called pyrolysis.

Slat first came up with the idea in 2011 when he was 16, after a diving holiday in Greece where he saw a huge amount of plastic waste in the water.

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