The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup Project Launches Historic First Prototype at Sea
Boyan Slat's ambitious plan to rid the world's oceans of plastic has taken another step towards reality with its first prototype to be tested at sea. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, founded by the 21-year-old Slat, has deployed a 100-meter clean-up boom today in the North Sea in The Netherlands.
The prototype was unveiled before its main partners, the Dutch government and marine contractor Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V.
The system will be installed roughly 12 nautical miles off the Dutch coast where it will undergo sensor-monitored tests for the next year. According to The Guardian, the vulcanized rubber barrier will passively coral floating trash into a V-shaped cone via the ocean's natural currents. The structure is anchored at a depth of up to 4.5 kilometers by a cable sub-system.
Today is a major occasion for Slat, who came up with his highly publicized concept a few years ago when he was only a teenager.
“This is a historic day on the path toward clean oceans," he said.
The organization pointed out that although some trash may be caught during the North Sea prototype test, collecting plastic is not its objective. Rather, "the objective is to test how The Ocean Cleanup's floating barrier fares in extreme weather at sea—the kind of conditions the system will eventually face when deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch."
"At the North Sea test site, conditions during a minor storm are more severe than those in exceptionally heavy storms (occurring once every 100 years) in the Pacific Ocean," the organization said.
A rendering of Boyan Slat's proposed Ocean Cleanup Project that features 60 kilometer-wide net and boom system to passively capture drifting plastic. The aim is to clean up nearly half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch's plastic pollution in 10 years. Photo credit: Ocean Cleanup Project
If everything goes as planned, the first operational pilot system will be launched off Japan's coast in 2017 to stop plastic pollution from reaching Tsushima island. By 2020, The Ocean Cleanup with deploy a full-scale, 100-kilometer-long system between Hawaii and California to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Slat, however, noted that a successful test does not necessarily mean the North Sea prototype will survive. “I estimate there is a 30 percent chance the system will break, but either way it will be a good test."
The Ocean Cleanup describes itself as the “world's first feasible concept to clean the oceans of plastic," and the team saw successful tests of scaled-down prototypes at the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands last year.
The Dutch government, which is in full support of the project, is convinced of its feasibility, as The Guardian reported. The entire project will eventually cost an estimated 300 million euros.
“The Ocean Cleanup is an inspiring example of how we can tackle the growing problem of ocean pollution," Dutch Environment Minister Sharon Dijksma said. "I hope that with the help of the Dutch government, Boyan's prototype will turn out to be the successful solution for cleaning up the mid-ocean gyres. This is crucial to prevent permanent damage to the environment and marine life, due to the degradation and fragmentation of plastic waste materials."
UK-based Eunomia Research & Consulting recently compiled a report that shows an astounding 94 percent of the plastic that enters the ocean ends up on the ocean floor, with an estimated average of 70 kilograms of plastic per square kilometer on the seabed.
But Slat has taken his critics head-on with a 530-page feasibility report composed of 70 scientists and engineers. The report concluded that the concept “is indeed likely a feasible and viable ocean cleanup technique." Their conclusion has also been peer-reviewed by external experts, Slat attested in a blog post.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tropical forests globally are being lost at a rate of 61,000 square miles a year. And despite conservation efforts, the global rate of loss is accelerating. In 2016 it reached a 15-year high, with 114,000 square miles cleared.
At the same time, many countries are pledging to restore large swaths of forests. The Bonn Challenge, a global initiative launched in 2011, calls for national commitments to restore 580,000 square miles of the world's deforested and degraded land by 2020. In 2014 the New York Declaration on Forests increased this goal to 1.35 million square miles, an area about twice the size of Alaska, by 2030.
By Cheryl Leahy
Do you think almond milk comes from a cow named Almond? Or that almonds lactate? The dairy industry thinks you do, and that's what it's telling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For years, the dairy industry has been flexing its lobbying muscle, pressuring states and the federal government to restrict plant-based companies from using terms like "milk" on their labels, citing consumer confusion.
By Jeremy Deaton
A driver planning to make the trek from Denver to Salt Lake City can look forward to an eight-hour trip across some of the most beautiful parts of the country, long stretches with nary a town in sight. The fastest route would take her along I-80 through southern Wyoming. For 300 miles between Laramie and Evanston, she would see, according to a rough estimate, no fewer than 40 gas stations where she could fuel up her car. But if she were driving an electric vehicle, she would see just four charging stations where she could recharge her battery.
Fire Continues at Texas Petrochemical Plant as Company's History of Violations Gets Renewed Scrutiny
By Andrea Germanos
A petrochemical plant near Houston continued to burn for a second day on Monday, raising questions about the quality and safety of the air.
The Deer Park facility is owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), which said the fire broke out at roughly 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Seven tanks are involved, the company said, and they contain naptha, xylene, "gas blend stocks" and "base oil."
"It's going to have to burn out at the tank," Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which is aiding the response effort, said at a news conference. It could take "probably two days" for that to happen, he added.
The hillsides dyed orange with poppies may look like something out of a dream, but for the Southern California town of Lake Elsinore, that dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
The town of 66,000 people was inundated with around 50,000 tourists coming to snap pictures of the golden poppies growing in Walker Canyon as part of a superbloom of wildfires caused by an unusually wet winter, BBC News reported. The visitors trampled flowers and caused hours of traffic, The Guardian reported.
A controversial pesticide test that would have resulted in the deaths of 36 beagles has been stopped, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the company behind the test announced Monday. The announcement comes less than a week after HSUS made the test public when it released the results of an investigation into animal testing at Charles River Laboratories in Michigan.
"We have immediately ended the study that was the subject of attention last week and will make every effort to rehome the animals that were part of the study," Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDupont, said in a statement announcing its decision.