Increasing quantum of waste generation across the globe is a major concern; the waste is directly dumped into the ocean and poisoned marine life as well as our eco-system. Our future is bound to the health of the one ocean we all share. Worldwide, there are many groups striving to give our ocean a voice.
Marine debris, also called marine trash, is any human-made solid material that is disposed of or abandoned on beaches, in waterways that lead to the ocean, or in the ocean itself, regardless of whether disposal occurred directly, indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally.
Every minute, one garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped into the ocean. Yearly, a colossal 1.4 billion pounds of trash end up in our beautiful oceans. Of this waste, much of it is plastic.
To date, there have been 275 billion plastic bags produced worldwide in just 2017 alone. Every second, a massive amount of 160,000 plastic bags are being produced and used. By the end of this year, we will have used 5 billion plastic bags.
Images source: The Ocean Cleanup
According to the United Nations, plastic pollution is conservatively estimated to have a yearly financial damage of 13 billion USD. The costs stem from the plastic’s impact on marine life, tourism, fisheries, and businesses. Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time, impacting more than 600 marine species.
If we go with the estimates of the World Count of these 5 billion bags, 5 million of them will make their way into the ocean either indirectly due to things like poor waste management, or directly by people who unfortunately do not know the significant consequences to the environment from their actions.
Additionally, only less than 1% of these used plastic bags are properly recycled. This is why plastic is the number one and most serious source of pollution in the ocean and is a right recipe for environment disaster!
The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization founded by Boyan Slat, has developed a prototype passive drifting system (The Ocean Cleanup System or OCS) to collect buoyant plastic debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s the first feasible method using advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.
There are multiple areas where the debris accumulates, and The Ocean Cleanup is focusing on the area known as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch (EPGP) which is located roughly midway between California and Hawaii within the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.
According to the company, it is planning a year-long deployment in the EPGP in a location approximately 1,880 km (1,015 nmi) from San Francisco. Assembly of the OCS has begun on Alameda Island in the San Francisco Bay and The Ocean Cleanup estimates that it will be completed in mid-2018.
How Does The Ocean Cleanup System Work?
The system consists of a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below. The floater provides buoyancy to the system and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath.
Images source: The Ocean Cleanup
As the system moves through the water, the plastic continues to collect within the boundaries of the U-shaped system. Both the plastic and system are being carried by the current.
However, wind and waves propel only the system, as the floater sits just above the water surface, while the plastic is primarily just beneath it. The system thus moves faster than the plastic, allowing the plastic to be captured.
The organization aims to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years’ time as compared to the conventional methods – vessels and nets – would take thousands of years and tens of billions of dollars to complete!
The hundreds of thousands of whales, seals, sea turtles and sea birds die every year from entanglement and ingestion of ocean plastic, The Ocean Cleanup can conduct its cleanup activities with greater confidence and a broader understanding using the information presented in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Their floating systems are designed to capture plastics ranging from small pieces just millimeters in size, up to large debris, including massive discarded fishing nets (ghost nets), which can be tens of meters wide.
After fleets of systems are deployed into every ocean gyre, combined with source reduction, The Ocean Cleanup projects to be able to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040.
Instead of wasting money on going to different planets, scientists and engineers should be part of the research to make machines which can recycle plastic in the most efficient and economical ways.
At least by doing that this waste generation could be controlled. Currently, we are just combining various elements from the nature to produce one which is destructive for the earth. Something that can be made but can’t be destroyed is filling our oceans, lands, and the burning of which is harming our air too.
Hats off to the Ocean Cleanup organization for their environment-friendly initiative, which not only helps in reducing the plastic menace from the ocean but also will inspire many corporate houses across the globe who really want to contribute for our society and environment.
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