Environmentalists Prepare to Remove Plastics From Oceans With U-Shaped Pipe Named 'Wilson'

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 - 1:06PM
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Tuesday, 16 October 2018 - 1:06PM
Environmentalists Prepare to Remove Plastics From Oceans With U-Shaped Pipe Named 'Wilson'
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Screenshot: YouTube/The Ocean Cleanup
According to recent estimates, the world's oceans are plagued by 150 million tons of plastic, and that number is expecting to triple in the next 10 years. One group working to help reverse what humans have done is a company called The Ocean Cleanup, and it is planning to do so with a 2,000-foot-long floating pipe called Wilson.

CNN reports that Ocean Cleanup launched the world's first ocean cleaning system last month to tackle an area between San Francisco and Hawaii known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." The Pacific Ocean garbage pile is the largest of its kind on Earth, which makes it an important and ambitious place for Ocean Cleanup to start. "That plastic is still going to be there in one year. It's still going to be there in ten years," said the company's founder Boyan Slat. "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 way the technology works is by creating an artificial coastline in the middle of the sea with its floating pipe. As the current and wind push Wilson across the surface of the ocean, it traps the larger pieces of plastic while a 3-meter-deep net catches the smaller pieces while still allowing animals to swim underneath. After a while, a garbage boat swings by and collects what the system has corralled. 
 



Some have criticized Ocean Cleanup's technology as being inefficient and expensive, arguing that it is virtually useless against small pieces of plastic and potentially harmful to small sea creatures. Eben Schwartz of the California Coastal Commission told CNN that a better strategy is to stop plastics from entering the water in the first place, which is what he and his beach cleanup volunteers have been doing. According to Schwartz, people on the beach have collected 5-7 times what the Ocean Cleanup system will by spring of next year, and they did it "in three hours and for a fraction of the cost." Slat, however, disagreed, saying that the idea that we can only prevent more damage and not reverse it is a "uninspiring message" that he does not subscribe to. "Everyone wants the future to be better than the present, and that's what we hope to achieve."
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