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Cleaning the ocean.

Since microbes won't be making a substantial dent in the oceans' plastic load anytime soon, creative types have come up with a few ideas to tackle the problem.

Young Dutch inventor Boyan Slat first caught international media attention in 2013 for his plan to clean up the ocean. Just out of high school, Slat proposed using a long V-shaped array of floating barriers to collect ocean plastic. With the help of ocean currents, plastic pieces concentrate in the center of the V and are scooped up by a conveyer belt driven by solar panels and dropped in a collecting station for recycling. A modified version of the 21-year-old's design will be deployed off the coast of Tsushima, Japan, this year.

A floating village called Seawer is an out-there concept that would strain trash from the ocean using a lineup of different-sized filters. Seawer could catch and store big junk, such as refrigerators and tin cans, as well as small plastic particles. To support human inhabitants living topside, the system would produce hydroelectric power and purify seawater for drinking and irrigation.

Other measures work closer to the source. Baltimore's Mr. Trash Wheel removed at least 213 tons of trash from the city's Inner Harbor last year, stopping plastic and other debris before it reached the ocean. Its 2015 roundup included 118,670 plastic bottles and 2.6 million cigarette butts. There's also an app called Marine Debris Tracker that gives beachgoers a chance to log litter finds in a database researchers use to study ocean trash. There soon may be fewer microbeads to tally. In December, President Barack Obama signed legislation banning plastic microbeads in cosmetics.

Caption: The water-powered Mr. Trash Wheel (top) pulls garbage from Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Boyan Slat's solar-powered design (rendering, bottom) uses ocean currents to gather plastics for recycling.

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Author:Samoray, Chris
Publication:Science News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 20, 2016
Words:313
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