Friday 13 June 2014

The Big Ocean Clean Up

Whether it is a water bottle, vegetable containers or a bag, in today's society, plastic has become a massive part of our everyday lives.  It is strong and durable and these useful properties are also the reason it is so dangerous.

Not so long ago, there was a grievous tragedy that occurred with the disappearance of flight MH 370. The news coverage also highlighted the serious problem of garbage in our oceans, in particular the "gyres".

What is a Gyre?

Currents: cc by-SA 3.0
Avsa- Own work
Our oceans are massive and so we would assume that any rubbish and plastic in our seas would be spread thinly across the whole area and wouldn't appear to be a big problem. However, the Oceans run in currents and these currents, along with the wind, keep the rubbish moving in Gyres, which is quite simply any type of vortex in air or sea. 

There are 5 gyres in our oceans where plastic is concentrated. These are; the Indian Ocean Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, The North Atlantic Gyre,  The South Pacific Gyre and the North Pacific Gyre. In these Gyres, there is said to be "six times more plastic than Zooplankton by weight"*

The big problem with plastic is that it floats on the surface of the water alongside genuine food sources for marine animals and it is killing them and seabirds in the millions each year. Eaten by these creatures, it can be poisonous and once it is in the food chain, it isn't long before it gets back to us.

Plastic can also trap and carry invasive species that can then threaten native ecosystems

How can we clean up the Oceans?

Initial ideas to clean the oceans involved big ships with nets that could scoop out the plastic and garbage from our oceans for recycling. However, the down sides to this are the costs, which would reach into the billions, emissions from the ships, by-catch in the nets and it would be very time consuming and take a long time to achieve.

A new Idea?

An innovative new idea however has been generated by a 19 year old boy, Bayan Slat. 

Bayan came up with a design, which anchors stationary V shaped floating barriers and platforms within these gyres and use the wind and currents as the power to concentrate the garbage into the elbow of the V before removing it for recycling. No nets means no by catch!

A feasibility report for the designs has just been completed showing this is a viable method that could remove almost half the plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and phase II is under development, which will work towards building a fully functioning pilot system withing 3-5 years.

What can I do to help?

Obviously something of this nature will always require funding and there is a crowd funding operation underway to try to raise money for this project.

First, I would recommend you visit the website at and read a bit more about the plans for this ocean clean up and then, if you wish, you can follow the links to donate as little as $6.21 to help this project become a reality. Every little helps and it would take just 332,062 individuals donating $6.21 to achieve the target funding.

How much are our oceans worth?

*Moor et al. 2001

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