It is estimated that 6.4 tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year. The 5 Gyres (garbage patches floating in the Oceans) contain 6 times more plastic than plankton. The Great Pacific Gyre is the size of Texas.
All this plastic waste has a huge impact on wildlife. It looks like food and birds starve to death with a belly full of plastic. Recently a dead whale was discovered that had consumed 17kgs of plastic and starved. In addition to this problem, as the plastic gets worn down by the sea, it releases toxic chemicals into the food chain (which includes us). This all points to a serious problem that cannot be ignored.
So far, efforts and focus has been on educating people to change their habits, which is very important. But how to cleanup the huge mess has been too big a problem. It has been estimated that using current methods, it would take 79000 years to collect the trash. It would require a lot of money and time and who is responsible? Who is going to pay?
18 year old Boyan Slat feels that we have to clean it our mess (with urgency). He started thinking about how the plastic could be cleaned out of the ocean as part of his final year school project. This began his concept, called The Ocean Cleanup. It is designed to use surface ocean currents and natural energy to divert the waste to huge collection platforms using floating booms. Because it is just diverting the waste instead of collecting it, even very small particles can be collected and there is minimal by-catch. The time to cleanup a Gyre is estimated at 5 years compared to the current estimates of 79 000 years using conventional methods. If the collected plastic is recycled or reverted back to energy, the project could even be profitable.
This very exciting project is still in development & testing at the moment but is one to be watched but if it allows for a successful cleanup operation, it is definitely one to be supported.
And see Boyan Slat speaking at TEDx Delft 2012 here.