You’ve heard plenty about it, but frankly, we still don’t talk nearly enough about the sheer absurdity of how much plastic humans pitch into the sea. It’s staggering, it’s sickening (literally) and it’s never-freaking-ending.
Cleaning it up has proved to present all sorts of logistical issues, but just this weekend, a potential, not solution by any means, but helpful tool, let’s say, was deployed from San Francisco to at least chip away at the problem.
It’s basically a 2,000-foot tube with a 10-foot skirt dangling below it. The idea is that the tube will be drawn into a U-shape by currents, where it will collect plastic detritus like a gigantic mouth. Then, special ships will collect the plastic crap, undoubtedly full of straws, fin keys, surf wax wrappers we’ve all tossed away over the years, and tote the garbage to land for recycling.
Right now the boom/tube thing is working out the kinks just outside California. If everything works as hoped, it’ll be towed out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—you know, the plastic trash collection the size of Texas—where it will start chomping away at the plastic. The company building the thing, called Ocean Cleanup, raised $20 million to get started and hopes to make dozens more cleaners and, within 5 years, get rid of half the plastic patch.
Lots of marine experts are worried, however, about the potential impact to ocean life of dragging multi-thousand-foot-long vessels collecting giant amounts of plastic garbage through the seas constantly.
"There's worry that you can't remove the plastic without removing marine life at the same time," George Leonard, chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, told the New York Times. "We know from the fishing industry if you put any sort of structure in the open ocean, it acts as a fish-aggregating device."
Fish-aggregating of course means “fish killing.”
There are also concerns about potential impacts to migratory patterns of marine life, not to mention whether or not the tubes will break down or not work over time, simply adding to the plastic problem it was meant to clean up in the first place.
Still, may as well be optimistic. And we’ve got to try something.