Radar used to monitor currents in the bay

June 27, 2012 7:36:19 PM PDT
A non-profit organization working to clean up plastic from the world's oceans, tested technology Wednesday in San Francisco Bay that could help them find debris under the surface. I had a chance to meet up with the researchers before they took off.

"This technology is going to revolutionize at-sea detection and clean up of plastic," said Nick Drobac from www.cleanoceansproject.org.

The Clean Oceans Project group came from Santa Cruz to sail on the 65-foot Derek M. Bayliss from the Alameda Marina to test an app to help them find plastic debris.

"It's called 'Bay Currents' that gives you a live data feed from the Romberg Tiburon radar array on Angel Island, so you can see in real time, what the currents are doing and where to go to look for plastic," said Drobac.

The Clean Oceans Project is working to outfit a large sailboat to sail the oceans, hoping to clean up the mountain of floating debris the size of Texas called "the garbage patch".

"There's millions and millions of square miles of ocean and we know that there's plastic everywhere. But we have to find it in concentrations that actually make it worth going out to clean up," said Drobac.

"The issue with the plastic pollution is that it's actually killing wildlife, endangered turtles, seabirds, seals and even whales, that accidentally ingest plastic out at sea," said Chris Pincetich, Ph.D.

Pincetich is with the Turtle Island Restoration Network. He has seen the gruesome harm done by ocean plastic.

"There's been in some cases, anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 pieces of individual plastics inside sea turtles that wash ashore dead," said Pincetich.

The Bay Currents app worked well enough to find some plastic items floating in San Francisco Bay. So, now The Clean Oceans Project is evaluating whether to add this technology to their expedition.

"We have technology from Japan that actually converts the plastic that we find at sea, into fuel, so once we get offshore, in the open ocean, we can harvest plastic, convert it to fuel, put that fuel right back into the gas tanks in the boat. That way we don't have to go back to land to refuel, don't have to go back to land and landfill all the material we find. It's really a closed loop system," said Drobac.


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