Floating Towers Are Going To Suck Up All The Ocean Garbage
In our childlike imagination, the ocean is full of wonders — mermaids, sea dragons, whatever those freaks with the lamps on their heads are. But in reality, it’s mostly water and the crazy amount of trash we put there.
The Great Pacific Garbage Gyre is a swirling morass of trash that circulates throughout the Pacific and kills, on average, 100,000 marine mammals (including whales, seals, and sea lions), over a million seabirds, and countless fish every year. It’s pretty important that we clean it up before it puts Red Lobster out of business — oh, and we all die from the pollution.
NOAAAny mermaids or sea monsters that were ever out there have long since been strangled by a six-pack holder.
But how do we accomplish that? It’s not like we can vacuum that stuff up, y’know? Except that we can and we will. In 2017, boy genius Boyan Slat was given a $2.5 million grant by TEDx to realize his dream of cleaning up the ocean with floating trash collectors. These “collector towers” are fed by legions of booms, floating barriers typically used for containing oil spills, which will corral trash toward the towers. Once in the tower, the trash will drift onto a conveyor belt and be fed into the machine (which will then be emptied monthly by ships).
Boyan optimistically states that this army of wandering trashbots will be able to clean up half of the GPGG plastic within five years, but the plan has attracted many critics, mostly arguing that money shouldn’t be going to cleaning the ocean, but to stop the ocean from being polluted in the first place. It didn’t help that Boyan and his team had to redesign the collector towers and booms after a disastrous trial run in the North Sea — which is bit more tempest-y than the Pacific — which resulted in the equipment almost sinking. After all, it’s not the most environmentally friendly plan if your trash towers are at risk of needing trash towers of their own.