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Marine Pollution: Revolutionary Floating Dam Aims to Recycle It

Dec 31, 2015 06:30 PM EST
Marine Plastic Pollution
New floating dams built to alleviate the ocean of deadly plastic pollution will be tested at sea for the first time in 2016.
(Photo : Flickr: NOAA's National Ocean Service)

An innovative floating dam that traps plastic bags, bottles and other debris contaminating the world's oceans will be tested in the North Sea for the first time next year. The Ocean Cleanup Organization plans to install this revolutionary 328-foot-long barrier in the summer, off the coast of the Netherlands. 

Dolphins, seals and other sea creatures are often entangled in plastic pollution. Compared to other cleanup methods, Ocean Cleanup's barrier uses currents to passively ensnare waves of garbage, while allowing fish and other sea creatures through, according to a news release

Researchers have tested the floating dams using extensive computer modeling and scale model in controlled environments at the Deltares and MARIN basins. Since they have proved successful, engineers believe it is time to move the barrier to the next stage of development: open waters.

Each arm of floating dam has a screen that hangs 10 feet below the water's surface, blocking waste and directing it to a central point where it can be collected for recycling. Cameras and sensors will regularly monitor the motions of the barrier and the loads on the system. That way researchers can better assess if their design can be used to cleanup the world's oceanic garbage patches, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch - also known as the Pacific trash vortex - spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. Strong currents draw large amounts of plastic debris to this area. Pending this floating dam is successful, researchers hope to deploy a 62 mile-long V-shaped barrier in this area in 2020.

"Taking care of the world's ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today," Dutch innovator Boyan Slat said. "Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system's efficiency and durability over time."

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