Floating barriers 100km long have been designed by a student to clear the seas of waste plastic.
Boyan Slat a 20-year-old inventor has created The Ocean Cleanup concept with the aim of removing – floating islands made of millions of pieces of waste that accumulate where currents converge.
There are currently five major gyres that are constantly moving across the seas in a rotating formation. The gyres contribute to the estimated 500 million kilos of plastic waste currently floating in the world’s oceans.
Previous proposals for removing this waste have involved using nets but have been considered too expensive and possibly damaging to wildlife.
Slat’s proposed solution involves floating filters that stay static and act as a barrier to collect waste.
“A cleanup of our oceans has always been deemed impossible, costing billions of dollars and thousands of years,” said Slat’s The Ocean Cleanup organisation, which is based in Holland.
“[Our] solution is a concept to passively clean the oceans of plastic in just several years’ time. The concept would utilise the natural currents to let the oceans clean themselves, in what would become the largest cleanup in history.”
The barriers would be arranged in two 50-kilometre arms connected to a central platform, forming a V-shape.
They would only filter the top three metres of water, as Slat’s studies found that this was where the highest concentration of plastic rubbish could be found in the world’s oceans. The main currents run deeper than this, reducing the potential for “bycatch” – fish and other ocean life that get caught and die.
As plastic is caught in the array, the motion of the water would push it naturally towards the platform, where the debris can be extracted and sorted.
The project has been nominated for the 2015 Design Museum Designs of the Year Award.