> Unlike organic debris, which biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level. As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean's surface. In this way, plastic may become concentrated in neuston, thereby entering the food chain.
I hardly expect this would be the collapse of civilization or anything (as depicted in the book), but it really could have some nasty consequences. Plastic is relied on almost for precisely that reason - the fact that it doesn't decay/rust/collapse over time. That's why we use it for stuff like medical implants, safety gloves, food storage, sanitary containers ... you name it. It could lose its un-decayable and its sanitary property in one go.
Kinda like the problem with overuse of antibiotics.
An impressive undertaking (founded by a 19 year old, no less) that's creating technology to solve this in ~5 years.
Please try to pollute less all around.
That is the reason it is used.
My point is that most people that care about the environment already know the hazards of plastics, and are not the ones overusing plastics and polluting the planet with them.
In other words, the solution isn't to get those that care to stop polluting the planet. The solution (or one of the solutions) is to get more people to care.
After initial criticism from quite a few experienced people Boyan Slat toned down his claims.
Life, uh, finds a way.
Now I don't know much about plastics so I can't say if that's possible or not.. it would be nice if it was :D
Easiest is to just collect it and burn it in a central facility though. Simplified, you can burn everything except PVC (number three).
I would think that if the plastic pollution stopped one day, within a few years most of the plastic would be sequestered at the bottom of the ocean. Even though plastic floats, eventually it gets inside animal bodies which eventually die and rain to the bottom ... yes ?
The Ocean Cleanup:
Also, that plastic is really the lowest possible grade of plastic that you can imagine. I'd be surprised if it were good for even synthetic mulch in playgrounds.
The plastic is already killing sealife and will continue to do so as long as the plastic is there.
Filter the sea, maybe some creatures dies, but future generations will not be killed by plastic.
It seems reasonable that the gyres have always collected crap and sealife has avoided it. Now that crap is plastic.
But, the gyre already provides the function of avoid-getting-killed-by-plastic, so it's not clear why we should aggressively reduplicate that effort.
The garbage patch may offer benefits to the ecosystem which are not immediately obvious. Whereas, filtering is likely to damage the ecosystem in some ways.
Human record of tending to the ocean has not been very good and we're not good at predicting consequences. I recommend watching documentary film "The End of the Line" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1176727/ before assuming that filtering is a panacea.
Gyres collect it, we harvest it on the spot.