By: Ashtun Welling
The trash in the ocean is finally being cleaned up. Over the years humans have accumulated over five trillion pieces of plastic litter in the ocean. Five trillion is about equal to 269,000 tons of which floats on the surface. Beside what washes up on coastlines, the bulk of the trash goes into five massive garbage patches; two in the Atlantic, two in the Pacific, and one in the Indian Ocean. The largest pile of garbage is between Hawaii and California.
All the trash in the ocean causes a big problem for fish and the earth. Plastics don’t break down because bacteria do not recognize the chemical compounds in plastics as food. Therefore, plastic doesn’t break down like they do with organic materials. So that means instead of recycling the plastic bottle you threw away in 2000 could still be floating around in the ocean. The chemical BPA in plastic can harm all of us; 93% of Americans, ages range from 6 and above have tested positive for this chemical. BPA-free does not mean it’s safer.
The Ocean Cleanup project took action in 2013 when 22-year-old Boyan Slat had a passion for clearing the ocean of our filth. Slats determine the most manageable large-scale cleanup strategy, using boats attached to giant nets while trolling the most polluted areas.
Slat’s system is a V-shaped enclosure that is pushed along by the ocean's natural currents. It functions as an artificial coastline, catching the garbage. The V-shaped array pushes the plastic slowly towards the center, becoming even more concentrated. The system is equipped with a solar-powered conveyor belt that slowly feeds the garbage into a giant oil rig rescue bin situated within the collection area, which can be easily emptied by a visiting vessel. As the trash accumulates in the collection areas, it will need to be hauled off every couple months so it doesn't breach the barriers.
What Slats hope to do with the trash is resell the bottles back to the companies who produced the product. If the companies will not take back the bottles they just go straight back into recycling. The Cleanup Project is relying on donations and sponsorships to keep it up and running. If you would like to help out by donating go to www.theoceancleanup.com. The money goes into straight into new inventions and picking up the trash. Every penny could help achieve a greener future.