The Ocean Cleanup Project just created a plastic-fighting pipe to clean up The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The environmental organization was created by scientists in 2012, and continues to be one of the largest companies to utilize scientists in researchers to create real solutions to environmental problems.
The new pipe, which they named Wilson, will float around the patch and utilize water currents to clean up the mess. The Ocean Cleanup Project estimates that their invention will be able to clean up at least half of the patch in about five years. It’ll take time, but at least they can finally rid the ocean of this 2,000-foot long floating patch of garbage.
The pipe features a huge net that relies on wind and current energy to trap the garbage floating around it. A boat is scheduled to return to the device every few months and remove the collected trash, taking it to shore to be taken care of responsibly.
CEO Boyan Slat says that the device will float around the garbage patch, collecting trash like a “giant wind-and-wave-powered Pac-Man.” Slat is also hoping that more systems like this could be utilized all around the world to protect our oceans. If enough cities around the world use these sophisticated nets, it could make a dent in our eco-footprint, Slat believes.
The Ocean Cleanup has been testing the pipe since 2013 before settling on this final design. The project has managed to collect more than $2 million through crowdfunding resources. If they’re able to get enough funding the in the future, The Ocean Cleanup hopes to set up at least 60 of these net-like systems around shore areas throughout the Pacific.
While some question how much of an effect this device can really have on something as vast as the ocean, the group’s CEO firmly believes that this is the start to something. He says, “That plastic is still going to be there in one year. It’s still going to be there in ten years. It’s probably still going to be there in 100 years, so really only if we go out there and clean it up this amount of plastic is going to go down.”
Regardless of whether this effect is huge, the Pacific Garbage Patch was discovered between 1950 and 1988. It’s about the size of Texas now. Not many have ever dared to do anything about this floating pile of trash. While the effect may not be huge, it certainly will have a large impact on sustainability in the future.
As tech companies strive to be environmentally friendly, scientists still lack the necessary funding to study these things. Through the power of crowdfunding, groups are finally able to utilize their country’s best minds to create real-time solutions.