The Ocean Cleanup foundation has taken on the mission of clearing all plastic from the”Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a giant trash pile located between Hawaii and San Francisco, by using a 2,000 foot-long floating pipe, reports CNN.
The amount of trash making its way into the world’s oceans is expected to triple in the coming decades, posing a huge threat to the oceans, sea life, and even humans. The 150 million tons of plastic floating in the ocean contributes to climate change, impacts the fishing industry, and contaminates our food.
With the goal of ridding the oceans of debris, the Ocean Cleanup foundation invented a pipe, nicknamed Wilson, that is shaped like a U and traps floating trash with a three-meter-deep net. The idea behind Wilson is to contain the plastic and debris in one spot so that a boat can make trips back and forth to collect the plastic and recycle it on land.
The pipe took five years to complete and communicates through satellite pods, continuously sending data back to headquarters and boats located around the world. The foundation hopes that by 2019, the pipe will be able to collect 50 tons of trash, and by 2040, will have collected 90 percent of the plastic floating in the world’s oceans.
Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat commented on the project.
“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.”
The project has received criticism from experts questioning whether the system can really have an effect on the amount of plastic in the oceans. According to CNN, Eben Schwartz, the marine debris program manager at the California Coastal Commission, expressed his concerns that the netting allows small pieces of debris to move through. He also worries that people will become less inclined to make efforts to stop ocean pollution because of the pipe.
“If this makes people feel like they don’t need to worry about recycling because this thing is out there, that’s a serious negative consequence.”
Despite the naysayers, Slat believes in the project and Wilson’s ability to clean up the seas.
“Back in the day people said, ‘Well, there’s no way to clean this up. The best thing we could do is not make it worse.’ But to me that’s a very uninspiring message. Everyone wants the future to be better than the present, and that’s what we hope to achieve.”