I had an idea to make green islands from mid-pacific plastic: Release a million tons of floating iron balls there, which will stay in the same regions as the plastic and hopefully cause a veritable forest to grow on the plastic, especially if they contain a bit of nitrogen/phosphorus/silica to start the forest, and then seabirds and fish can hopefully do the rest.

What would happen to the iron balls, would they stay with the plastic islands, would they end up on beaches and be a waste of time?

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    $\begingroup$ They and their load of nutrients would certainly add to the deoxigenation of the ocean. $\endgroup$
    – user18411
    Dec 7, 2019 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ Cheers, please give a vague chemistry basis for your statement? Iron in teh ocean reduces CO2 and increases photosynthesis, quote: Most of the excess heat from CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions is absorbed by the oceans. Warmer oceans cause deoxygenation both because oxygen is less soluble in warmer water, and through temperature driven stratification of the ocean which inhibits the production of oxygen from photosynthesis. $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2021 at 2:41

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I take it that your iron balls are hollow and made of rust resistant steel. It would be a fiendishly expensive project, but I doubt it would have the result you suggest. The iron balls would have to be linked together by chain or rope to prevent them dispersing in ocean currents and ending up on beaches around the world, like the cargo of plastic ducks which fell overboard from a ship about ten years ago.

Such a contrivance would represent a hazard to shipping, so no government would be willing to spend the huge amount of money it would cost. The whole thing would probably end up on the beach of some Pacific island and cost a fortune to remove.

The problem of plastic in the ocean is certainly a serious one, and something needs to be done about it, but this is not the solution. Perhaps an internationally financed ship dedicated to seeking out rafts of plastic at sea and disposing of them might help, and would certainly be much cheaper and easier to control than your million tons of iron balls.

A world-wide educational campaign aimed at teaching people the damage caused by dumping their rubbish on beaches, in rivers, and from ships might have some effect in reducing the amount of rubbish which ends up in the sea. I always use an ordinary plastic shopping bag a couple of dozen times before it starts to fall to pieces, and then I put it in a bin bag to go to landfill. If everyone did the same it would be a major step in the right direction.

  • $\begingroup$ The good news is the resulting mess could be cleaned up with magnetic equipment. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2019 at 17:09

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