If you don’t remember the movie Cast Away, here’s a brief synopsis. Tom Hanks is stranded on an uninhabited tropical island following a plane crash. As he struggles to survive, a Wilson brand volleyball washes ashore. The castaway paints a face on the ball and names it “Wilson.” Wilson becomes a cherished friend. The castaway makes a final desperate attempt to leave the island by crafting a raft to be sailed into shipping lanes. A storm nearly destroys the rafts and leaves Wilson floating away. The castaway tries to save the volleyball/BFF but cannot reach it/him without abandoning the safety of the raft. He cries out, “Wilson! Wilson, I’m sorry! Wilson!” Wilson is lost at sea. Tom Hanks is rescued.

Wilson is again taking to the high seas. This time it’s not the volleyball, but a 2,000-foot-long unmanned structure that corrals plastic debris in the ocean. Its technical name is System 001 but has been dubbed “Wilson” as a nod to the movie.

The $20 million floating boom was developed by the nonprofit organization Ocean Cleanup and deployed from San Francisco Bay a few days ago. Its main target is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

This video from CNET shows how it will work:

According to an article in The New York Times, Ocean Cleanup has collected nearly $35 million in donations. The Times says, “Much of that money paid for the boom and helped underwrite research like a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, which quantified the full extent of the garbage patch. Future booms are estimated to cost about $5.8 million each. Major sponsors include Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce.com, and Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal.”

But many scientists, who are applauding the effort, believe that overall most of the effort should be put into stopping the flow of plastic into the ocean. Worldwide, USA Today reports that most of the plastic trash in the ocean comes from Asia with the top six contributing countries being China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The article cites Richard Thompson, head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom, who believes 95% of the effort should be put into stopping plastic from entering the ocean while 5% should be spent on cleanup.

What are your thoughts on Wilson? Should there be more efforts to stop the pollution at the source than there should be on cleanup?

Please let me know what you think in the comments section below. MSW_bug_web

  • Scott Anslinger.

    I like the concept and feel it should be a 2 prong approach. We need to reduce what is reaching our oceans and perhaps cleanup at the discharge points of Rivers and along the costs would make the material more manageable but cleanup will always be necessary. I think a balanced approach is the best answer with efforts being focused to maintain cleanup. Cost burden I am thinking should be a 40% / 60% ratio with 40% going to reduce pollution and 60% going to cleanup. Education and prevention programs are not going to be as costly as the cleanup. I think we have to fund both but a 90-95% balance is not reasonable and short sited! Just my opinion!

  • Nuggehalli C Vasuki.

    It is very worthwhile removing the discarded plastics in the oceans while striving to reduce the entry of plastics into the waterways of the globe. Training millions of people to stop discarding plastics in the streets, storm sewers, lakes, seas and oceans is a very difficult task. It cannot be legislated. Safely collecting and disposing garbage in all cities is one way. The rich counties have more or less achieved a high degree of solid waste collection and disposal. The developing countries have to make a major effort to collect and dispose garbage in a more effective way. Cargo ships are another source of discarded plastics and quite uncontrolled.


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