A nonprofit group is about to begin testing a brute-force approach to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. First discovered in the mid-1980s, the island of floating plastic between Hawaii and California is now estimated to be at least as big as Texas (and growing). With $20 million in donor funding, Ocean Cleanup built a boom 2,000 feet long, designed to form a U-shape at sea and drag swaths of plastic back to land for proper disposal. If initial tests are promising, the company wants to build duplicate booms that could cut the Patch in half within five years.
Issues: Despite extensive modeling, the group doesn’t know whether the boom will both hold up and actually corral plastic under real-life conditions in the not-so-Pacific ocean. And designers acknowledge its significant potential to sweep up marine life as well. (The prospect of launching a multi-million dollar project without any certainty it will work is a reassuring reference point for me in Evening Docket’s first week of existence.)
Not mentioned in the article: Microplastic, which scientists say is changing the composition of both water and sand and could be a potentially bigger problem than debris masses.