Ocean garbage scoop study to start off Ja­pan coast


Re­searchers are launch­ing tests aimed at set­ting up a huge float­ing bar­rier off the Ja­panese coast, a project that could even­tu­ally help re­move some of the 5.25 tril­lion pieces of rub­bish pol­lut­ing the world’s oceans, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

If the study is a suc­cess, the south­ern is­land of Tsushima could be the venue for a pi­lot scheme that would pluck tonnes of plas­tic waste from the sea — all with­out harm­ing marine life.

The Ocean Cleanup Foun­da­tion wants to in­stall a moored plat­form and float­ing boom off the is­land next year if the tests, which begin this month, prove promis­ing.

The sys­tem would span 2,000 me­ters, mak­ing it the long­est float­ing struc­ture ever de­ployed in the ocean, ac­cord­ing to the Dutch foun- da­tion’s web­site.

Most ocean clean-up ef­forts in­volve the use of boats sail­ing around try­ing to catch the plas­tic, thou­sands of tonnes of which have been dumped around the world.

That method is both en­ergy-in­ten­sive and time-con­sum­ing, whereas the Ocean Cleanup Foun­da­tion sys­tem re­lies on tak­ing ad­van­tage of cur­rents that carry rub­bish along — ef­fec­tively wait­ing for the garbage to come to it.

Since the sys­tem uses booms, not nets, marine life — which is neu­trally buoy­ant — passes harm­lessly un­der­neath the bar­ri­ers, while plas­tic — which floats — is gath­ered at the sur­face.

Work­ers can then scoop up the col­lected de­tri­tus, with is­land au­thor­i­ties look­ing at us­ing the plas­tic as an al­ter­na­tive en­ergy source.

Ocean garbage wash­ing up on the shore has long been a prob­lem for Tsushima, which sits be­tween Kyushu and South Korea, cost­ing mil­lions of dol­lars a year to deal with.

“We are pick­ing it up but no mat­ter what we do, it keeps on com­ing,” said Takahito Abiru, an en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy of­fi­cial in Tsushima.

“We are col­lect­ing garbage in fish­ing grounds, at tourist places, on beaches and else­where, but there are other ar­eas that are not so easy to ac­cess,” he told AFP.

“If we could stop the garbage off­shore, we’d ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

The city will make a fi­nal de­ci­sion on whether to ap­prove the de­ploy­ment of the sys­tem af­ter see­ing re­sults of the up­com­ing marine sur­vey and ob­tain­ing con­sent from fish­er­men and lo­cal res­i­dents.

The sur­vey will start in late June and will take ac­count of the depth of the sea, the shape of the seabed and ti­dal cur­rents, Abiru said.

“We will de­cide pos­si­bly by Feb- ru­ary whether it can be in­stalled or not,” he said, adding there had been no lo­cal op­po­si­tion to con­duct­ing the study.

The de­ploy­ment would rep­re­sent an im­por­tant step for The Ocean Cleanup, which ul­ti­mately en­vi­sions a much larger so­lu­tion to a prob­lem that in­creas­ingly plagues the world’s oceans.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion, which was started by a Dutch teenager, aims to deploy a 100-kilo­me­ter ( 62- mile)- long sys­tem to clean up the sea be­tween Hawaii and Cal­i­for­nia within five years — the lo­ca­tion of the so-called “Great Pa­cific Garbage Patch,” a ma­jor gyre of marine de­bris.

The de­ploy­ment off Tsushima will en­able the foun­da­tion to “study the sys­tem’s ef­fi­ciency and dura­bil­ity over time,” 20-year-old chief ex­ec­u­tive Boyan Slat said on the foun­da­tion’s web­site.

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