A giant floating barrier designed to collect plastic waste that has been dumped into the sea will be tested later this year, with plans to eventually deploy the new technology in some of the most polluted areas of the worlds oceans. Designed by The Ocean Cleanup, the 100-meter-long (330 feet) structure is to be trialled 23 kilometers (14 miles) off the coast of Holland, where it will act like a floating dam, trapping bags, bottles and other waste.
It is currently estimated that between 5 and 13 million tonnes (5.5 to 14.3 million tons) of plastic enters the ocean each year, posing a major to threat to marine ecosystems. For instance, the survival of up to 100 different aquatic species is thought to be threatened by plastic debris, with at least a million seabirds dying each year as a direct result of ingesting or becoming trapped by this trash.
Among those currently jeopardized by plastic waste are several species of sea turtle, which often ingest plastic bags after mistaking them for jellyfish.
At least a million seabirds die each year as a direct result of ingesting plastic waste. Chris Jordan via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters) / CC BY 2.0
OceanCleanups barrier aims to passively collect this debris, and will be placed in certain strategic locations where currents naturally cause floating waste to congregate. It will be tested in the second quarter of this year in order to discern its efficacy in real-life sea conditions, using cameras and sensors to monitor its movement and performance in response to waves and currents.
Once this data has been analyzed, the developers intend to create a 100-kilometer-long (60 miles) version of the barrier, which will be placed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is the largest of the worlds five garbage traps,known as gyres, where rotating currents cause floating debris to congregate. It is thought that around a third of all oceanic plastic is currently located in this particular region, which sits between the mainland U.S. and Hawaii.
The giant barrier will consist of two panels, each of which will extend 3 meters (10 feet) beneath the surface. Converging in a V-shape, the two arms will trap waste and divert it towards the center, where it can more easily be collected and removed.
Moored to the ocean floor, the storm-resistant barriers could be put into operation by 2020. According to The Ocean Cleanup, this new passive technology will help to clean the worlds oceans around 7,900 times faster and 33 times cheaper than conventional methods, which typically involve actively searching for and removing floating waste.
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