Cleaning the ocean
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.”
FILTERING OUT PLASTICS
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
Boyan Slat during one of his research expeditions.