August 8, 2018 / Modified aug 8, 2018 9:53 a.m.

Giant Strainer Seeks to Clean Up Oceanic Garbage Patches

An Arizona researcher says it's only one approach to an dire problem that requires a variety of mitigation strategies.

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ocean garbage plastic unsized Researchers retrieve a fishing net from the Pacific Ocean in 2015. (PHOTO: The Ocean Cleanup)

The nonprofit Ocean Cleanup is preparing to launch a 2,000-foot U-shaped strainer made of floating pipes and nets to clean up trash in the world's ocean.

The currents that move around the globe gather plastic into massive oceanic trash pools.

One Scientific Reports study estimates the gyre between California and Hawaii holds at least 79,000 tons of plastic, and it's only one of five or more such sites globally.

Some question whether the nonprofit's cleanup measures are the right place to focus efforts.

Charles Rolsky, a doctoral student at Arizona State University who studies plastic pollution, said the problem takes a multidimensional strategy.

"We have to work with the people removing the stuff; we have to work with the people creating the stuff, consumers utilizing it," he said. "We have to sort of cash in on all those outlets."

Rolsky added that the problem is so bad at this point we can't afford to get picky.

"I think that any type of creative approach to reduce the amount of plastic out there is worth looking into."

Arizona Science Desk
This story is from the Arizona Science Desk, a collaborative of the state's public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Arizona Science Desk.
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