How do you tame a sea monster? With a big pipe, of course
Ocean project uses wind and waves to tackle a huge vortex of rubbish that's bigger than Texas
An enormous 600m pipe, dubbed System 001, started gathering floating waste this week at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a stretch of open ocean bigger than Texas and clogged with an estimated 80,000 metric tons of rubbish.
The pipe is the most ambitious clean-up project to date. It is managed by Netherlands-based environmental group Ocean Cleanup and staffed by more than 80 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modellers aiming to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.
Researchers have identified five main rubbish gyres in the world’s oceans, with the North Pacific patch considered the biggest, containing an estimated 80,000 metric tons of plastic in about 1.8 trillion pieces.
System 001 arrived at the patch late last week and is now officially deployed, according to a statement posted on the organisation’s website.
The floating pipe concentrates floating waste by harnessing the power of wind and waves, thereby allowing it to be scooped up and removed by clean-up vessels. If the concept proves successful, more units will be deployed, with the hope of cleaning up most of the patch within five years. “After 14 days of trialling we concluded that System 001 was ready to brave the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The crew arranged the system back into the towing formation and made way to the heart of the patch, approximately 850 nautical miles from the trials location. On October 16, after several days of unfavorable weather, we arrived in the patch; within the same day, System 001 was deployed back into its U-shape and finally in its intended location,” the organisation said.
Earlier this year, Plastics SA released the audited results of the biggest pollutants found on SA beaches during 2017. The majority of waste was food wrappers, plastic containers, bottle caps and lids, a trend that John Keiser, sustainability manager at Plastics SA, attributed to human behaviour that needed to change. He said plastics, though highly useful and valuable to society, need to be disposed of responsibly to avoid filling up landfills, waterways and oceans.
This week, Packaging company Novus Holdings stressed the need for plastic recycling, pointing to encouraging statistics that show the practice is becoming more widespread.
Plastics recycling figures for the year ending 2017 released by Plastics SA show a steady growth, with more than 334,727 tonnes recycled back into raw material, Novus said. “With an input recycling rate of 43.7%, South Africa has outperformed Europe, whose recycling rate currently sits at 31.1%,” Novus said.