Recycling the Garbage Patch

Back in the summer of 2009, I posted a couple of notes about Project Kaisei, an expedition to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge collection of plastic bottles and miscellaneous rubbish, concentrated by prevailing winds and currents into an area of the North Pacific ocean about the size of Texas.   Since then, in addition to its usual accumulation of new trash, it has probably been enlarged by contributions from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan.  A similar floating rubbish heap has been found in the Sargasso Sea, in the middle of the North Atlantic.

Now, according to a report at the “Design” blog at Wired, a company called Method, which manufactures “designer” cleaning products, has  plans to introduce a new “Sea Minerals” soap product that will be sold in a package made, in part, from plastic retrieved from the Pacific.  The plastic was collected  in Hawaii by Method employees, assisted by volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the Kokua Hawai’i Foundation.  It will make up 10% of the material used for the container; the other 90% will be post-consumer recycled plastic.

Obviously, even if the collectors work with the utmost diligence, it will take them a very long time to make a dent in the existing Garbage Patch.  Their hope is to raise people’s awareness of the problem, and perhaps to encourage the development of larger-scale solutions.

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