Save The Ocean, Save The World
The Largest Cleanup In History
by Richard Liaw
By now, many of us would have seen the “No Straws” signage shown in restaurants around us. The world is finally beginning to realise the harm of unchecked disposal of plastic wastes. Among the most jarring effects is the threat to marine life. In fact, a recent study published on Nature found that the chance of death for sea turtles would increase by 50% after ingesting just 14 pieces of plastic. That is an extremely small amount compared to a staggering 5 trillion pieces (yes, that’s 12 zeros) of plastic currently littered in the ocean.
In the effort to preserve marine life, which in turn would preserve the balance of our ecosystem, The Ocean Cleanup Foundation has presented us with a brilliant solution. The idea isn’t really that complicated; it is a system that has a 600-meter-long floater on the surface and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below it. The floater prevents plastic from flowing over and the skirt stops plastic from flowing under. While both plastic and the system is carried by the current, only the system is propelled by wind and wave making it travel faster across the ocean, capturing plastic along the way.
What started as just a presentation of the idea on TEDx, soon became the world’s most successful non-profit crowdfunding campaign to date when it raised USD 2,154,282 from over 38,000 funders from 160 countries in the span of 100 days. The money was immediately put to work by funding the engineering process as well as a number of expeditions which would contribute to the collection of oceanographic data.
Presently, the first working system, System 001, is currently being towed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, approximately 1200 nautical miles offshore. It intends to prove the concept of The Ocean Cleanup’s technology. What’s next is to reach a full fleet of 60 systems by 2020, through the help of corporate sponsorship. According to their computation models, a full-scale deployment is able to remove 50% of the plastic waste in the Great Pacific Patch in 5 years’ time.
To add icing on the cake, the company has discovered that ocean plastic can be recycled to produce high quality products like phones, car bumpers and sunglasses. Imagine buying plastic goods while supporting the preservation of our planet! Now that’s marketable. True to their non-profit endeavor however, they only aim to make the cleanup self-sustainable in the future.