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Floating structure will clean up marine pollution

A United States-based architect named Honglin Li has designed a tall floating structure that will convert waste into energy and remove marine pollution from the sea water. These structures will be placed at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a large area of floating marine pollution located in the North Pacific Ocean.

Li has named the floating structure ‘Filtration’. He won an honorable mention in the eVolo Magazine 2019 Skyscraper Competition. Although his floating structure is not a habitable skyscraper, the judges deemed his design to be revolutionary and for a great cause – to remove waste from the sea and use it as a free source of energy.

How the floating structure will work

The skyscraper has been designed as a modular, prefabricated waste management structure that doubles as a waste-to-energy converter. The tall structure contains several material recovery facilities (MRFs) and waste treatment plants (WTPs) to remove and recycle waste materials from the garbage patch. As the waste is filtered from the water, clean sea water is pumped back into the ocean.

The structure will float in the middle of the garbage patch and pump the polluted sea water up to the top level. From here, gravity will pull the polluted water down through several filters that will catch the waste materials. These materials will then be sorted for recycling or sent to incinerators where the heat from being burned will be harnessed to create electricity.

The recyclable waste will be collected and bundled for transport. Ships will collect these bales of waste and take them to recycling facilities on the mainland. The energy created from burning the non-recyclable waste will be used to power the water pumps and lights aboard the floating skyscraper.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

“The size of the [Great Pacific Garbage Patch] is estimated to be 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean, twice the size of Texas, thrice the size of California and the rubbish layer is, on average, 100 feet thick,” says Li. This patch of floating waste stretches from the West Coast of America to Japan. 

“The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only vortex – it’s just the biggest. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans both have trash vortexes. Even shipping routes in smaller bodies of water, such as the North Sea, are developing garbage patches,” explain Li. 

Floating structures such as these could be placed around the world to combat the growing problem of marine pollution. These skyscrapers could be used in South Africa where popular shipping routes around our coast often results in small vortices of floating waste. The ocean currents eventually wash this marine pollution upon our beaches, or it carries the debris towards the larger garbage patches in the oceans.

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