A high-seas mission departs from San Francisco next month to map and explore a sinister and shifting 21st-century continent: one twice the size of Texas and created from six million tonnes of discarded plasticCool to see they are using drones and robotic surface explorers to help them out. Of course I would like to see this whole operation work without the need for humans at all using autonomous robotic Whoombas.
In June the 151ft brigantine Kaisei (Japanese for Planet Ocean) will unfurl its sails in San Francisco to try to prove Mr Moore wrong. Project Kaisei’s flagship will be joined by a decommissioned fishing trawler armed with specialised nets.
“The trick is collecting the plastic while minimising the catch of sea life. We can’t catch the tiny pieces. But the net benefit of getting the rest out is very likely to be better than leaving it in,” says Doug Woodring, the leader of the project.
With a crew of 30, the expedition, supported by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Brita, the water company, will use unmanned aircraft and robotic surface explorers to map the extent and depth of the plastic continent while collecting 40 tonnes of the refuse for trial recycling.
“We have a few technologies that can turn thin plastics into diesel fuel. Other technologies are much more hardcore, to deal with the hard plastics,” says Mr Woodring, who hopes to run his vessels on the recycled fuel.
The UN’s environmental programme estimates that 18,000 pieces of plastic have ended up in every square kilometre of the sea, totalling more than 100 million tonnes. The North Pacific gyre — officially called the northern subtropical convergence zone — is thought to contain the biggest concentration. Ideal conditions for shifting slicks of plastic also exist in the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the North and South Atlantic, but no research vessel has investigated those areas. If this exploratory mission is successful, a bigger fleet will depart in 2010.
via Times Online via Digg