In DepthMarine Engineering

Sea trash traps face doubts

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Science  19 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6339, pp. 671
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6339.671

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Summary

An ambitious nonprofit has announced new plan to sweep up plastic litter circulating in a "garbage patch" in the remote North Pacific. The Ocean Cleanup, based in Delft, the Netherlands, intends to launch a fleet of drifting trash collectors with booms that would funnel trash into central tanks, which ships would empty. Some experts and environmentalists have doubts. They say collecting trash closer to shore would be more cost effective, and they worry the project will distract from less glamorous efforts to keep plastic out of the sea in the first place. The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $31.5 million in donations, originally planned to deploy a 100-kilometer-long arc of booms and secure the unit to the sea bed some 5 kilometers down. But on 11 May, the group unveiled a revised blueprint that calls for up to 50 unmoored collectors, each just 1 or 2 kilometers long. They will be cheaper and faster to build, and they will collect more trash. The target is to start production in early 2018.