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A sea turtle struggles through ghost nets
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Top Photo: A sea turtle struggles through ghost nets. Photo credit: Francis Perez/

A strange looking CONTRAPTION was hauled out to sea last month, and its creators hope that it will help reduce the amount of plastics and other garbage floating in the ocean. 

The Ocean Cleanup Project is a 2,000-foot long series of pipes that suspend garbage-collecting netting in the water. It left San Francisco on Sept. 8 headed for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a giant growing glut of trash between California and Hawaii, the largest of five ocean garbage patches.

The project was thought up by 24-year-old Boyan Slat. The Dutch man was inspired by the plastic he saw in Greek waters where he went diving as a teenager. Slat created the nonprofit Ocean Cleanup when he was 18. The project received millions in donations to become a reality. The project team is based in the Netherlands, but the prototype was made in San Francisco.

The connected pipes are not motorized, but once deployed will float in a u-shape that is slowly pushed by wind and currents. The hope is that the netting that hangs about 9 feet below the pipes will snag the floating garbage, but allow fish and other marine animals to swim below. A garbage ship will then collect the plastics for recycling. 

“I applaud the efforts to remove plastics—clearly any piece of debris removed from the ocean is helpful,” Rolf Halden told USA Today. Halden is a professor of environmental health engineering at ASU. 

But Halden and others expressed doubts about the ultimate success of the Ocean Cleanup Project. They say the focus needs to be on keeping garbage out of the oceans in the first place.

October 2018