Clea­ning the ocean

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito / Sommaire -

Une ma­rée de plas­tique.

Bou­teilles, sacs, pneus, fibres syn­thé­tiques… Chaque an­née, des mil­lions de tonnes de plas­tique sont dé­ver­sées dans les océans. Très peu bio­dé­gra­dables, par­fois in­vi­sibles, ces dé­chets mettent en dan­ger la faune ma­rine et s’im­miscent peu à peu dans la chaîne ali­men­taire. Pour lut­ter contre cette pol­lu­tion, un jeune Néer­lan­dais par­court les mers avec son in­ven­tion.

In 1998, Charles Moore, an ocea­no­gra­pher, was sai­ling across the North Pa­ci­fic when he made an un­wel­come dis­co­ve­ry. “As I ga­zed from the deck at the sur­face of what ought to have been a pris­tine ocean, I was confron­ted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plas­tic,” Moore wrote in Na­tu­ral His­to­ry ma­ga­zine. “It see­med un­be­lie­vable but I ne­ver found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the sub­tro­pi­cal high, no mat­ter what time of day I loo­ked, plas­tic de­bris was floa­ting eve­ryw­here – bot­tles, bot­tle caps, wrap­pers, frag­ments.” What he stum­bled on be­came known as the Great Pa­ci­fic

Gar­bage Patch or “Pa­ci­fic trash vor­tex”. It is thought to be anyw­here bet­ween the size of Texas (700,000 square ki­lo­me­ters) to se­ve­ral times that size.

2. Most of the plas­tic waste that ends up in the oceans is thought to be­come part of these “gar­bage patches” of rub­bish. Des­cri­bed as a “ti­cking time bomb” by ma­rine scien­tists, the Great Pa­ci­fic Gar­bage Patch is be­lie­ved to have grown by five times in the past 10 years and will be­come a grea­ter risk to life as the plas­tic de­grades fur­ther. It’s a pro­blem that caught the ima­gi­na­tion of a then 16-year-old school­boy from the Ne­ther­lands, Boyan Slat. “I had to do a

high-school science pro­ject that year and I de­ci­ded to real­ly de­di­cate my­self to this is­sue. Eve­ry­bo­dy told me it would be im­pos­sible to clean up, the main pro­blem being that the plas­tic is ex­tre­me­ly dis­per­sed... over a wide area.”


3. The key idea that makes Slat’s concept dif­ferent to other schemes is the prin­ciple of “let­ting the sea do the work” by ha­ving ocean cur­rents run in­to V-sha­ped screens that fil­ter out small plastics. When the sys­tem is ful­ly ope­ra­tio­nal, the plastics

(The Ocean Clea­nup)

Boyan Slat du­ring one of his re­search ex­pe­di­tions.

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