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Trawl garbage patches for fuel

Home Forums Archive Infrastructure Trawl garbage patches for fuel

This topic contains 5 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of wohl1917 wohl1917 6 years, 7 months ago.

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    Profile photo of Federalist

    There are gyres that concentrate garbage in known regions of the oceans. The density of floating plastic debris in these “garbage patches” is high enough that a seastead outfitted to trawl for garbage may be able to collect a dependable supply of combustible fuel — and perhaps even an exportable surplus of energy. And if you put it through an efficient enough incinerator, you might not only avoid the ire of environmentalists but also win green points for cleaning up water-borne pollutants that consternate many.

    Questions to investigate:

    1. What is the energy density of these garbage patches? I.e., how much debris can you scoop up per unit area trawled?
    2. How small and cheap are incinerators that are capable of cleanly burning plastic mixed with attached marine life?
    3. What are the consumables involved in a trawling and incinerating operation? Nets? Exhaust scrubbers and filters?
    Profile photo of

    There are a couple of threads about this. Try a search. I think the biggest problem is collecting the debris without also getting a lot of organic material. Invent a magnet that works on plastic.

    Profile photo of Eelco

    Not sure why organic material is a problem. It has calorific value, and i dont think youd damage any ecosystems if you arnt even specifically targetting them: fishing is harder than just throwing out a net.

    That said, im fairly confident the density is way too low to be worthwhile. There may be quite some junk out there, but the ocean is a big place. Feel free to prove me wrong though, it shouldnt be too difficult to get an order of magnitude estimate.

    Profile photo of libertariandoc

    Using TPR almost anything will work. The trick is having a sufficient energy source to do it. Like a suitable nuclear plant, either a more or less conventional uranium reactor or a safer thorium reactor.

    Profile photo of DM8954

    To prevent, as much as possible, harming any living creatures near the trash, sound could be used (especially high frequencies) to scare anything away that isn’t attached or already dead. That would minimize fatalities. Beyond that, one could argue that anything living there is already dying and that by cleaning the polution, you’re saving more life in the future.

    Now, incinerating it would just put the component chemicals into the atmosphere and/or a landfill. Are there any other options? Grinding it up for use in building foundations and road slabs? Recycling?

    The problem is… after reading through the information in the link (shoulda done that first, huh?)… that much of this plastic is in the form of nearly microscopic particulates, not vast swaths of visible debris. So, while the density is way too high and is impeding life, (7 times as much plastic as plankton in some areas) it’s too small to scoop up with any old net. You might have to design an extra-fine screen that covers lots of area. A material like that would have to be extremely strong to push through the resistance of the water because of the tiny pores the fluid would have to flow through to filter out such small particles and to carry the weight of the plastic being collected. Even if you manage not to catch any fish by your methods, it would be difficult not to devastate the plankton population in the process. The choking effect of that much polution is certainly worth cleaning up, but you’d have to keep your pace deliberately slow to allow the plankton populations to recover. Luckily, with up to 15million square kilometers of ocean to cover, even with a fleet of cleaning ships it could take a while.

    With a material similar in makeup similar to panyhose, its difficult for me to imagine the strength required to resist even 15 foot waves with the apparatus stationary.

    Profile photo of wohl1917

    I’ve had the same idea! As ‘DM8954’ pointed out, a lot of the stuff has/is breaking down into smaller particles, the fact remains that there is still a lot of ‘big’ stuff out there. As for the little critters eating it, well, sadly most of them are going to die so killing them during the recovery/collection efforts might actually be a good thing…

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