Cleaning up the Pacific Garbage Patch
This is in response to a question asked by @relinashinee @curtisb @Goyo on my card about the Pacific Garbage Patch.
I did a pretty poor job of explaining the phenomenon, and thought this deserved a separate card rather than a comment reply.
First, most of the garbage in the ocean is plastic, and while plastic doesn't "degrade," it is broken down by sunlight. Thus, over time plastic in the sea gets broken down into very small, dust-sized particles, which is why it is so difficult to clean up. Add to this the fact that these plastic debris are moving around due to ocean currents, and we face a very, very daunting task. It's like "trying to pick up sand in a Jacuzzi tub."
There is an organization that believes we can develop a feasible technology to effectively clean up the ocean: "Project Kaisei" was founded in late 2008 by three people from the Bay Area in California. From what I can gather from the home page, they are still at the stage of conducting research, completing 2 expeditions to the Pacific in 2009 and 2010 before embarking upon the actual cleaning itself.
However, most experts believe the task is nearly impossible due to both difficulty and costs. They emphasize the perhaps the only viable solution would be to stop adding new trash from our coastlines.
But this comes back to my original assertion that no one is really doing anything because it's far out in the middle of the ocean and doesn't provide an immediate threat to us. If this problem had been something that was more urgent, would "difficulty" and "cost" stop humans from finding a way? Human history has been about overcoming the impossible and finding ways to do things more easily (and cheaper). Heck, we've found ways to go to the moon. And money? If people really cared about it, they'll spend it.
The initial funding for Project Kaisei was $500,000. The main fighter jet of the US Air Force is the F-16C, each of which costs $18.8 million. We have over 800 units. Sure, we can't make direct comparisons like that, but it does make you think.
(pic 1: turtle eating a plastic bag)
(pic 2: a social funding site that tried to gain funding for Project Kaisei)