Plastic is one of the wonders and at the same time biggest problems of our age. Its quite ubiquitous, I am writing this on a plastic keyboard on a laptop made of plastic (in large part). One of greatest problems is one of its biggest advantages – its indestructibility. We have known about this indestructibility for decades but in recent years we have learnt of new problems due to this property. These are the huge volume of plastic in the worlds oceans and the shredding of the plastic down to a microscopic level and its effects on everything from wildlife to us.
A huge whirlpool of plastic drifts in the Pacific, the great Pacific garbage patch. One Dutchman thinks he has a solution to this. This is a rubber boom called Boomy McBoomface (UK readers may get this name more than others).
A 21 year student dropout had the idea and crowdfunded its development. Now the Dutch government is funding its sea trials. There are three huge problems.
1) the device has to be huge since the problem is huge and in order to make any impact on it. It needs to be 100km long, a lot bigger than the 100m trial. No such device has ever been built that size.
2) It needs tethering to the seabed which is 4.5Km deep at the point of the great Pacific garbage patch. No such tethering has been tried before.
3) It will need to be robust enough to survive Pacific typhoons.
4) Some means of collecting and disposing of the plastic will need to be found.
If this works it would be great but in the meanwhile we need to cut down our use of this material.