This is hard to say. The garbage patch is thought to be the size of Texas, perhaps even larger. I would say that is unlikely, at least in our life time. To clean something that size would take an insane amount of man power and resources to accomplish. Also, this garbage patch is still growing and even if some sort of organization were able to start cleaning it, where would it all go, how would we dispose of it?
It would cost a lot of money to clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch. It is huge and very dense. The area where they patch is located is kind of vortex in the ocean currents, so even it was cleaned out, it would form again. The only way it could be cleaned out for good is if there was a huge culture shift in waste management.
It would be a huge endeavor to begin removing the waste from the ocean. The currents in the Pacific are what causes the rubbish to gather in the area, creating a massive island of trash. Floating garbage ensnares thousands of animals per year, and yet there is not a simple or quick method to removing so much floating waste from the ocean. It lies in a relatively remote place, making fuel and traveling expenses there a large part of why it would be difficult to start a cleaning effort.
The Pacific Garbage Patch will most likely never be completely cleaned up, although efforts are being made to re-utilize as much of the polluting material as possible. Part of the issue at hand is the way that plastic degrades. Never actually bio-degrading, plastic simply breaks into smaller and smaller pieces down to the molecular level, so fish and birds will inadvertently consume plastic and introduce it into the food chain. Luckily a number of organizations are working to extract plastic for use in recycling and oil production. The process, pyrolysis, cleanly converts plastic into synthetic oil, making the extracted material a valuable resource. If organizations continue to explore this technique, then some improvement will be made on the patch. But it seems that the garbage patch has systematic effects on the ecosystem that can never be fully addressed.
I wouldn’t say, as others have said, that the plastic will never be cleaned up. While its true that as it decomposes plastic releases toxins into the ocean, like naturally occurring toxins, they probably won’t effect the environment for eternity! As long as we continue to produce plastic we will continue to pollute the ocean with toxins. In addition, since they are heavier than water, the toxins sink, polluting deeper areas of the ocean. Clean up would be in vain. Prevention is a better treatment.
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