Whole Life Magazine

April / May 2016

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city of angels By Lisa Beebe MASSIVE OCEAN CLEANUP An aggressive idea for fi ltering plastic B y 2050, the oceans could hold more plastic than fi sh, ac- cording to a 2016 report from the World Economic Fo- rum. About eight million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year, damaging ecosystems, endangering marine animals and breaking up into tiny pieces that enter the food chain. The plastic debris is drawn into massive whirlpools called gyres, and there's no easy way to clean up the mess. A few years ago, a Dutch student named Boyan Slat came up with a solution: Build a network of fl oating barriers that pas- sively fi lter plastic trash out of the ocean so that it can be recy- cled. In 2012 he described his idea in a TEDx talk called, "How the Oceans Can Clean Themselves." After the talk went viral in 2013, Slat founded a company called Ocean Cleanup to put his plan into action. In 2014 he raised $2 million in a crowdfunding campaign to begin offshore tests. Slat believes his project, the Ocean Cleanup Array, could re- move half the plastic in the Great Pacifi c Garbage Patch in 10 years. This June, Ocean Cleanup is launching its fi rst prototype, a 328-foot fl oating barrier, off the coast of the Netherlands. A larger project for a 1.2-mile barrier in the Korea Strait near Ja- pan's Tsushima Island is planned for next year, and would be the largest fl oating structure ever deployed. If all goes as planned, a massive array will begin cleaning the Great Pacifi c Garbage Patch in 2020. The inventor's enthusiasm about ridding the oceans of plastic pollution is infectious, but his project has its critics. Even after Ocean Cleanup released a 530-page feasibility study, marine scientists continue to have concerns about the project's effects on sea life. Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, says, "The potential for bycatch is too great to be ignored," and called on Ocean Cleanup to produce an Environmental Im- pact Report from an outside agency. Whether Boyan Slat's dream will become a reality remains to be seen, but for now, there's one thing he and scientists study- ing plastic pollution agree on. The ultimate solution to plastic pollution is to use less plastic, and prevent it from entering the oceans in the fi rst place. Photos: Courtesy TheOceanCleanup.com 10 wholelifetimes.com

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