99% landlubber, 1% sailor
Join Date: Oct 2008
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Your thread got me thinking, and doing some research on the gyre, and it's accumulation of (mostly) plastic trash.
I think it's a great idea to go and get some of the trash, especially if you want to publicize the environmental impact.
However if you want to go out there and process the stuff in place, there are some big decisions to make.
Unfortunately, despite the amazing resource that the internet is, there is very little in the way of information on the density and make-up of the mass of flotsam.
This makes designing a harvesting mechanism for the mass rather difficult to conceptualize.
From what I have gathered in a morning's web surfing, the plastic in question is mostly ground up bits bobbing just below the surface. The flashier bits are attractive to some seabirds and small fish, and wind up in their stomachs. the big stuff is few and farther between and floats better, apparently. (Please, anyone that has a better understanding of th makeup of this stuff, enlighten me, and set this thread straight)
That it is not a big thick mass on the surface makes it harder to collect, and makes any harvesting mechanism invasive to the local marine wildlife.
A cool idea though. I envisioned a combine-type mechanism on a large barge with a massive solar array atop it to power the machine. some sort of propulsion would be required. It could melt and blend the plastics, as it would be impractical to have it sorted out by types in such a ridiculously remote location. It could be designed to continuously extrude plastic cylinders or injection mold large stackable large blocks, or even molded into building blocks for a modular floating island that could be put together at sea.
potentially it could be mostly unmanned, and steer itself to the richest of resources.
It would need to be a robust design, considering the long-term need for such a harvesting mechanism. It would need to be incredibly seaworthy, all but hurricane proof, easily maintained, and mostly self-contained.
As far as making a reef out of the plastic, it's possible, if you can get it to sink.
I'd rather it didn't stay water-borne, as it seems to act like a toxin-sponge. Better to return it to land where it could be re-used, or find a deep dark hole in the ocean to drop it where it can't hurt anything or anyone-- No sense turning a danger to birds and fish into a danger to shipping.
Who wants to underwrite a pilot project to harvest the gyre?