According to Ellen MacArthur, a world-class navigator, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
An unsettling forecast that gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the impact of human activities on the planetary ecosystem.
Every minute, the equivalent of a urban garbage truck reaches the ocean, aggregates and gives birth to massive floating agglomerates.
One of them is the “Great Garbage Patch”, a “continent” entirely made of garbage in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Mostly made of plastic, the new born island, whose mass is exponentially growing since the beginning of the 2000s, is posing quite a few problems to the oceanic marine ecosystem.
Periodically, the tides dump part of the waste on the Hawaiian coast, polluting the beaches. It is estimated that 10 rivers are responsible for an incredible 90% of the amount of plastic found in the oceans. Among these, river Yangtze, one of China’s biggest rivers, dumps every year over 1,5 million tonnes of waste in the Yellow Sea.
In order to reduce the flux of fluvial plastic, several proposals have been examined by the governments responsible for such a mess. Among the proposals, for example, the installation of filters and grids at the mouth of the river. Anyway, reducing discharges is not enough, since the time required for the decomposition of the plastic already present in the sea equals to thousands of years and it’s not in line with the current global needs. That’s why Boyan Slat, a 22-year-old Dutch man, in 2014 founded “The Ocean Cleanup”, an innovative startup whose aim is to clean ocean waves from garbage.
After 4 years of planning, the company will launch its equipment in the Pacific Ocean to test its performance in the summer of 2018.
The equipment includes next-generation filters, kept afloat by buoys, made efficient by a software that monitors the unit’s parameters. The whole process will not require electrical supply thanks to high efficiency photovoltaic panels installed in situ.
As it is possible to read on the startup’s website, The Ocean Cleanup mission in to make their equipment scalable, to expand all over the Pacific.
The scientific community argues that that would only be a temporary solution , given the fact that only the 15% of the plastic in the oceans floats at shallow depth.