Plastic-Karma? Industrial seed of self destruction?  vs  A Floatation Resource?

Picture above from NOAA. Ocean currents distribute many tons of accumulated plastic trash, because it floats. It seems as though there are too many tons for routine clean up. The loosely floating plastic may prove too awkwardly troublesome to recycle as a carbon resource. Indifferent powers that be do trash earth's gift of water and ecosystems, (by omitting to observe industrial self immolation, now evident). At least, consider cleanup solutions. Laws fail to solve littering issues. Who will start the clean up? Following are some mere concepts by Bo Atkinson, Maine USA.

First, the baler concept pictured above would pull flotsam into mechanical rollers which "roll" the garbage in order to make a cylindrical bale for subsequent recycling. Harpoon-like devices could "lasso" floating garbage clusters and reel them in for a twisting compaction to make bales. A "spaghetti fork" also is lowered into the garbage to provide more traction. After twirling the trash in sync with the rollers, the fork is retracted upwards to release the bale. It is expected that some cohesion will result from the trash itself, while additional baling filaments or wires are also likely required.

If a floating island could be built with the bales, could such an island economically withstand storms or tsunamis? Would trash consolidation remain substantially firm in order for life forms to attach and offer more of the environmental stabilizing factors of ecosystems? Does loose trash shed off ecosystems? Would stabilized trash allow healthy growth? I've read that plastic does harbor anaerobic bacteria (bad guys), but aerobic bacteria (good guys) do flourish on anaerobic bacteria, so could eco-harmony develop? If sustainability proved possible, then at least one re-use of the material exists. What purpose could such an island serve? I would think a good preliminary use to consider is to establish a base for researching long-term plastic-waste research.  However, the artificial flotation property of plastic may yet serve a more important, useful service. Modeling an atolwould seems fun to me.

Consider the vast amount of plastic that does in fact float . Note the location in relatively calmer areas of the oceans. If massive floatation was wanted, here it has already been delivered and awaits intelligent assembly.  Sea life awaits it's rendering into a less harmful format. Collecting floating bales may help jump start a better feasibility study, to further evaluate bale collection for intelligent use. At least, baling will reduce the maiming caused by loosely floating trash.


Continued baling research might offer means to prevent wild life molestation. Floating islands as a base for further research, also brings to mind aqua culture research.  Are ocean trash-gyres distant from coveted fishing turfs? If so, then aqua culture research may benefit from a new operational base. Could bales be formed into floating, artificial atolls?

Many pictures of the amazing gyre phenomenon can be seen on the www. Estimates of size say it is larger than small countries in expanse, (surface area).

"North Pacific gyre"

"Trash vortex"

"Great Pacific Garbage Patch"

Gyres: A recycling force of it's own design? Nature: A die-hard, self-corrective system but would it include humanity's self destruction? Are we that close to the tipping point of self destruction through destruction of ocean life? From the web, next, is an illustration of some of the larger ocean gyres, around the world.  Gyres offer us some help to capture the trash, but will any power that be do something positive? I wonder.


Would a working solution encourage people to dump more aggressively in the oceans?  It is said much of this trash comes from land disposal which carelessly blows into the sea. Are so many human lives disparaged by leadership examples in our world, that they care less? Is there no hope for inspiring all humans to prosper, rather than planning an unproductive despair, for the masses?  I hope generally and want to work on attainable solutions.  I will experiment with more design models such as an artificial, floating island, for a gyre.

Here is information about my structural abilities.

My consulting service.

Here is my pictorial index.

Here is a list of my many structural ideas.

Public comments / ideas:   I am intrigued by this real problem and invite people to think about this idea with me.   E m a i l-     Here is one which addresses specific tools. Other comments received so far did not focus on tools. Apparently some interests are considering "harvesting" plastic for fuel or byproducts on large scales.

I'm not very familiar with the specifics referred to below, but share it all the same--

Hi Bo,
Your concept of baling plastic trash intrigues me.

I do brush clearing for fire safety and have been interested in baling brush for others to chip for some time with limited success. For brush clearing with a small mono cable skyline I have used hollow braided rope (non rotational) to receive smaller 'chokers' made from 450 lb knot strength baling twine by inserting the twine a few inches upstream. This connection prevents rotation which is a potential problem. The chokers are cut with a simple blade on a block to drop the load where desired.

You commented "It is expected that some cohesion will result from the trash itself, while additional baling filaments or wires are also likely required."

Do you think that it might be practical to sort some of the trash into filaments which would in turn be wound into twine and then two strand rope?
The rope would be (chain?) stitched to form nets or pads to collect smaller pieces when dragged through the water.

To collect smaller pieces, a hollow mono cable dyneema fiber rope (Samson Blue is typical with 1/7 the weight of wire rope with equivalent strength) a few thousand feet long on a capstan winch could be used to make a continuous loop containing these small collector nets. Of course the hollow rope has to be slack at the point of insertion, but this could be done before deployment or even during deployment at some additional cost.

By circling, the trawler could collect smaller plastic pieces. Once aboard the trawler, additional bundling could take place and perhaps the bundles could be grouped into islands as you conceptualized.

I have gotten many ideas from your work online. Thank you for sharing.

Paul Miller
Georgetown, California