Ocean cleaning is on the table


SeawerOut of a skyscraper design competition comes an idea that’s not designed to scrape the skies, but clean the seas.

The Seawer is a machine designed to ply the world’s oceans, generating power from flowing seawater while it filters the trash that floats on the seas.

South Korean designer Sung Jin Cho submitted the Seawer Skyscraper project as his proposal for this year’s eVolo Skyscraper Competition. The project includes a huge drainage hole 550 meters in diameter and 300 meters in depth that would be located at the heart of the GPGP. The structure consists of five layers of baleen filters that separate plastic particles and fluids. The particles are taken to an onboard recycling plant while purified seawater is stored in a large sedimentation tank at the bottom of the structure before it is released back into the ocean.

Many of us know that plastic trash has been dumped into our oceans for decades, resulting in semi-floating clouds of debris that can kill fish, birds and other useful biomass, and ruin the shores it occasionally runs up against.  Many think the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the only such cloud of debris worth considering, but it is in fact only one of many such gyres around the world.

Neel KashkariAfter so many years of governments and organizations essentially dismissing this problem as being beyond our ability to fix, it’s good to see so many people today are actively searching for solutions that can be implemented now.  Not long ago, Businessweek featured the designs of Dutch engineering student Neel Kashkari, whose idea has been crowdfunded and has made $200,000 in its first hundred days.

I hope to eventually see a competition, similar to the X-Prize, to encourage more organizations to develop ways of cleaning our oceans.  In the meantime, at least someone is putting their minds and their backs into working out this serious problem.


2 thoughts on “Ocean cleaning is on the table

  1. Very nice idea. I wonder if any have tested simply seeding the sea with iron, resulting in blooms of algae at the bottom of the food chain. Might be helpful in reef areas or even barren areas…
    Thanks for the article.


  2. I’ve heard of that idea, but I’ve also heard that the consensus on it is not positive; no one wants to try that without at least further tests in controlled environments. Hopefully the scientist who developed it will figure out a way to do further tests, either to satisfy his critics or to demonstrate that the idea doesn’t work.


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