Could Drifting Trash Collectors be the Solution to Our Oceanic Plastic Problem?

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Could Drifting Trash Collectors be the Solution to Our Oceanic Plastic Problem?

The latest proposed solution to the ever-worsening issue of ocean pollution may have a solution: trash collectors that will float at the surface of the ocean and absorb any plastic or other such debris drifting nearby. Though seemingly near-perfect in theory, many scientists are worried such collectors may actually exacerbate the problem more than they will help.

Up until recently, the ocean was thought to be so vast that any effects from manmade pollution would be “negligible,” at best. However, with an increasing number of uninhabited “dead zones” forming in patches of the ocean across the globe, it is now abundantly clear that the pollution is, in fact, tangible. Worse, it is leaving many ecosystems devoid of life and on the brink of complete and irreversible collapse.

The main contributors to this pollution come in the form of chemical runoff from a plethora of industries and an increasing number of coastal cities. Common pollutants can be anything from various forms of plastic to chemical fertilizers used on farmland.

For the most part, the largest argument against floating trash collectors remains the idea that the responsibility should fall on humans to lessen the amount of pollution output, in general. Another common argument is that the trash should simply be intercepted right off of the coasts of highly-populated areas in order to ensure that the pollution never has the chance to float out into the watery depths in the first place. Some scientists also worry that, if not completely perfected in the design process, these collectors will simply become more trash to add to the growing piles.

As far as the collectors themselves are concerned, a couple of inventions have already made noticeable impacts on the ocean clean-up process.

For example, The Ocean Clean Up uses advanced drifting barriers to catch up to eight-times the amount of trash as the typical vessel-and-net method. Another device “consisting of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms,” could remove nearly 7.3 million tons of plastic waste from our oceans.

As ingenious as these methods seem to be though, it will still have to be a matter of time before a larger number of scientists and clean-up crews will get on board with these methods.

Top photo by: byrev/Pixabay, CC0

Natalie Wickstrom is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia. She most likely wrote this piece to the tune of a movie score whilst chewing gum.