picture of garbage on the ocean A fitting challenge for environmentalists and other do-gooders
     It’s called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In the Pacific Ocean, a floating collection of garbage has coalesced into a huge mass twice the size of Texas! Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch

     Looking at a map, the garbage mass is located between Hawaii and California. It is composed of an estimated 79,000 tons of mostly plastic waste. Ocean currents have caused billions of pieces of garbage to assemble in this gigantic mass.

picture of man standing on pile of ocean garbage
Here is a picture of a man standing on a tiny portion of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
     “The great Pacific garbage patch was described in a 1988 paper published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States. The description was based on results obtained by several Alaska-based researchers in 1988 that measured neustonic plastic in the North Pacific Ocean. Researchers found relatively high concentrations of marine debris accumulating in regions governed by ocean currents. Extrapolating from findings in the Sea of Japan, the researchers hypothesized that similar conditions would occur in other parts of the Pacific where prevailing currents were favorable to the creation of relatively stable waters. They specifically indicated the North Pacific Gyre.”

Note: The North Pacific Gyre has a clockwise circular pattern and is formed by four prevailing ocean currents: the North Pacific Current to the north, the California Current to the east, the North Equatorial Current to the south, and the Kuroshio Current to the west. It is the site of an unusually intense collection of man-made marine debris, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Pacific_Gyre

picture of a special boom rounding up garbage and a ship collecting the garbage
Here is a picture of a special device which will contain the garbage and a ship which will collect the trash.
     What can be done about this massive amount of garbage littering the Pacific Ocean? A special floating device has been developed which will extend about six feet below the surface and six feet above the water’s surface. This “net” is several miles in length and will collect garbage until a ship arrives to get a load. With that much floating garbage, I estimate it will take thousands of trips to clear the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This cleanup work shouldn’t stop because other smaller ocean garbage patches are growing on the world’s seas.

     I’m sitting here thinking that this amount of cleanup could employ thousands of workers. Just think, shipyards would build or retrofit hundreds of ships, construction companies would build recycling and reclamation centers, and metal industries would build the machinery needed to collect, transfer, haul, and process the largest plastic waste stream in mankind’s history.

     Ships would gather and transport the plastic waste to a port facility; the port facility would transfer the waste onto haulers (e.g., truck or train) which would transport the waste to recycling centers. The recycling centers would convert the waste to useful raw materials which would then be shipped to manufacturing facilities.

     Some of the manpower required for this massive operation could come from prison labor. Yeah, that’s right; build a prison near a recycling facility and:

  1. Reduce labor costs.
  2. Provide training to inmates which would be transferrable to life on the outside.
  3. Give the inmates something to do while earning money

picture of a crane erecting a modular home
Here is a picture of a crane erecting modular homes.
     Recently, I was watching a television program which showed a horde of homeless people in California cities. Community leaders were wringing their hands over the need for affordable housing.

     Logical steps in providing affordable housing:

  1. Architects could design affordable housing units built from recycled materials.
  2. Manufacturing facilities could use the recycled materials to build components of modular housing.
  3. Appliance, electrical, and plumbing suppliers would see a surge in demand for new products.
  4. Construction companies could erect modular housing units.
  5. Communities could acquire land, buy these modular units, and run them like public housing units.

     Are there other uses for these recycled plastic materials? Absolutely! The list is long and varied. I suggested designing and building affordable housing units because this idea helps resolve four problems with one solution.

  1. Clean up the environment.
  2. Employ a large number of people.
  3. Create jobs for prison inmates.
  4. Generate affordable housing at greatly reduced cost.

     Can you come up with a better idea? Only a delusional person believes he or she has the only solution. I'm not delusional but I might be unduly optimistic. Why? In order to implement this project:
  1. Local, state, and national politicians would have to cooperate with one another.
  2. Money to implement would come from a variety of sources which would cause bureaucratic infighting as money was transferred from one project to this project.
  3. Somebody has to sell the news media on this idea.
     Reverting to my pessimistic self; this may be a great idea, but it ain’t gonna happen!

Joe R. East, Jr.

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Updated 04/14/2018
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