The story so far: Roughly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a vortex created by the North Pacific Gyre. The Gyre is made up of several ocean currents that carry warm water to the poles and cold water back to the tropics. The interesting thing about the North Pacific Gyre is that the vortex in the center of the gyre contains relatively calm water and has collected a massive quantity of floating trash, dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The trash floats in the same area as neustonic organisms--floating on or just under the water’s surface. The trash is largely invisible, it’s made of up many tiny particles of broken down plastic and bits of mono filament fishing line. How small are the particles? According to a 2001 study, the average size of pieces is 5mm x 5mm, making them essentially invisible from the surface. Unfortunately, the plastic does significant damage to the marine ecosystem, harming or killing animals that ingest it and emitting damaging chemicals that impact.
Because of the size of the particles involved and the fact that the garbage patch is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, cleaning the mess is a bit of a sticky wicket. However, the designers of the Plastic Fish Tower, an entry into this year’s eVolo Skyscraper competition by a team from South Korea, aims to fix that. The Plastic Fish Tower is a spherical floating structure attached to a 1km diameter ring. The ring filters the floating plastic from the ocean, then pulls it into a central floating spherical tower, where it’s recycled into plastic fences for fish farms. Also in the tower are laboratories, residential areas, and leisure space, all beneath the sea.
Obviously, the Plastic Fish Tower won’t be built anytime soon. But with similar garbage patches being discovered in ocean vortexes around the world, we’ll need to find a solution for the floating plastic pellet problem sooner rather than later.
Image via eVolo