In November, Design World Managing Editor Leslie Langnau, wrote a post regarding Ocean Cleanup, a mission to remove most of the plastic from the oceans. This plastic, which congregates in five areas, called gyres, is the result of millions of tons of plastic that is regularly dumped into our oceans.
Boyan Slat, a young engineer and the pioneer behind the Ocean Cleanup efforts, believes that it can be done in only five years using a series of floating filtration platforms anchored to the ocean floor, and massive floating boom attached to the platforms. The collected plastic would then be transported for recycling. Read that entire post, "Help Clean up the Ocean," here.
Is Gyre Cleanup Effort a Reality or Fallacy?
In response to the Ocean Cleanup efforts, Stiv Wilson, the policy director of the ocean conservation nonprofit 5Gyres.org, has written a blog that belies many of the concepts behind the well-intended efforts to deal with ocean plastic pollution. Referring to the efforts as a "fool's errand" due to the fact that the ocean is big, the plastic harvested is nearly worthless and sea life would be harmed. According to Wilson, the solutions start on land.
In the post entitled "The Fallacy of Cleaning the Gyre," Wilson says, "Industry often backs ‘gyre cleanup’ concepts because they give the impression that we can continue to consume more and more and good old human ingenuity will figure out how to solve all the environmental problems. The public, for their part, loves the thought of a quick fix and wants to believe that a ‘boy genius’ can come along and solve a problem that all the old crusty PHDs can’t."
The Good News
According to Wilson, the reality is that we don't have to go and get the plastic; it will come to us. Mind-blowing, right? Apparently there is a phenomenon that occurs naturally that in the ocean called Gyre Memory, which means that upon each orbit of a gyre, the gyre will spit out about half of its contents. These contents will then either enter another current gyre or wash up on land. As this cycle repeats, eventually all the plastic in the ocean will be spit out, which is why you find plastic fragments on the beach. In other words beach cleanup is gyre clean up.
This phenomenon is no silver bullet to solve the problem, says Wilson. The first step to solving the problem is lowering our consumption of plastic. Next steps involve getting involved in cleanups, getting involved in campaigns to eliminate problem products, and demanding that companies take responsibility for their products post consumer.