A machine that aims to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is to be launched.
The ocean cleaning machine was dreamt up by a teenager and is the first to attempt to tackle the huge mass of plastic that currently sits in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California.
It is estimated that there are 1.8 trillion individual pieces of plastic in that area alone. This does not count the unknown amounts of micro plastic pieces that are also polluting the world's oceans.
Unfortunately, the machine can't collect micro plastics, but it's still a good start.
The patch was discovered in 1997 and, once the machine is in place, the people behind it expect it to clean up about 40,000 metric tonnes - representing about half of the total amount - over the next five years.
The machine consists of several large tubes - ironically made of plastic - that are welded together and create a barrier that collects plastic from around the surface of the water. In fact, it is the largest floating barrier ever made.
They've got their work cut out. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch clocks in at around 617,763 square miles in size. That's way more than twice the size of France, so pretty damn big.
Much of the plastic is from the fishing industry in the form of so called 'ghost gear' like abandoned nets and ropes that are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins, and seals every year.
All sorts of creatures get stuck in the ghost gear and either starve to death or are suffocated. Some animals eat the plastic thinking it is food and then starve to death because it is not.
Up to 90 percent of the plastic that is made is not recycled. Depressingly, scientists think that nearly every bit of plastic ever made is out there somewhere. It can take about 450 years for some to degrade. Most of it goes into landfill and the oceans.
The brains behind the machine are Dutch company The Ocean Cleanup, set up by Boyan Slat - who at the time was an 18-year-old student.
He said: "The plastic pollution problem has always been portrayed as something insolvable. The story has always been 'OK, we can't clean it up - the best we can do is not make it worse'. To me, that's a very uninspiring message,
"What I really hope is that the ocean clean-up in this century can be a symbol for us using technology to make things better.
He continued: "We as a humanity created this problem, so I think it's our responsibility also to help solve it."
That's a great message for everyone.
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Featured Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup Foundation
Topics: Environment, World News