Ocean plastic: How tech is being used to clean up waste problem
Author: Danielle Fleming & Liv McMahon
The 28-year-old founder of non-profit environmental organisation The Ocean Cleanup has been working on ways to filter plastic waste out of the Pacific Ocean for nearly 10 years. He told BBC News it has been harder than he ever imagined it would be. "The planet is pretty big, it turns out," Boyan said. "There's about 1,000 rivers we need to tackle and five ocean garbage patches, [so] the first few years were really about trying to understand the problem." The world's biggest area of accumulated ocean plastic, commonly dubbed "the Great Pacific Garbage Patch", is located in the North Pacific Ocean. Containing a huge build-up of plastic debris ranging from large fishing nets to flake-sized microplastics, it has been one of the main targets for The Ocean Cleanup team. The Ocean Cleanup uses a long, u-shaped barrier, similar to a net, that is pulled through patches of rubbish by boats. It moves slowly to try to avoid harming marine life. Cameras powered by artificial intelligence (AI) are used to continuously scan the ocean's surface for plastic and calibrate the team's computer models, helping them understand which parts of the Pacific area to target. "When you look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, there's some areas that have a very high density of plastic and other areas that are virtually empty," he said. "If we are continuously cleaning up inside those hotspots, we can of course be a lot more effective in our clean-up operation." Plastic collected by the 800-metre-long (2,600ft) system, the second of its kind developed by the company, is periodically taken to land and emptied for recycling.