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A Modest Proposal for the Removal of Floating Rubbish From the North Pacific Central Gyre

[+] Author Affiliations
David W. Gerlach

United Technologies Research Center, East Hartford, CT

Paper No. IMECE2011-65510, pp. 1101-1103; 3 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 4: Energy Systems Analysis, Thermodynamics and Sustainability; Combustion Science and Engineering; Nanoengineering for Energy, Parts A and B
  • Denver, Colorado, USA, November 11–17, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5490-7
  • Copyright © 2011 by United Technologies Corporation


Floating plastic debris collects in large rotating ocean currents termed gyres. These regions of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean have been called the “Great Garbage Patches” and received a great deal of sensational reporting in the media. The patches consist of small fragments of debris suspended in the first few meters of water. There have been several proposals and research projects on methods to catch the debris in nets or otherwise remove it from the water. The plastic must then be disposed of. This paper proposes that the captured plastic material can be incinerated on board the vessel to produce heat for driving a Rankine cycle or producing pyrolysis oil for use in a diesel engine. The resulting power could then be used propel the vessel and the waste heat to dry the incoming plastics. The energy budget of the process is analyzed showing that the energy consumed and the plastic fuel value gathered are of the same order of magnitude.

Copyright © 2011 by United Technologies Corporation



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