There has probably been no other ocean issue that has so quickly grabbed the world’s attention than plastic pollution. David Attenborough’s BBC series Blue Planet II and especially the segment that focused on plastics in the ocean, hit an emotional high note that certainly captured the eye of the Queen and audiences worldwide. Join us for an update on the ocean pollution cleanup and find out what’s happening.
“Never Before Have We Had Such an Awareness”
Two other excellent documentaries A Plastic Ocean and Chasing Coral also focused attention on the fragile state of our coral reefs and the harmful impact of plastic pollution. The result is that we are looking for solutions; from developing the technology to remove plastics that are in the sea; to others that are pursuing ways to capture plastic waste before it enters the ocean; and others that are focused on how to eliminate plastic products from our daily lives and replace them with sustainable alternatives.
Plastic pollution is an enormous problem and tackling it from many directions is necessary. It is the combination of all these efforts that will eventually contribute to a solution.
The Plastic Bank
Another very interesting approach is called The Plastic Bank and recognizes that the largest part of the plastic pollution problem is created in the poorest countries. Since research suggests the greatest amount of plastic ocean waste comes from half a dozen Asian countries, this approach makes complete sense. Can the Plastic Bank solve the problem of plastic waste in the ocean and bring an end to extreme third-world poverty at the same time.
Plastic Becomes Currency
That’s the ambitious goal of David Katz the founder of The Plastic Bank. The essence of his concept is to think of plastic waste not as garbage, not something that should be thrown away, but as a valuable asset that creates recyclers and a valuable “currency” that the poor can use and benefit from.
By creating a chain of stores, worldwide, where everything from school tuition to cooking fuel can be purchased in exchange for plastic garbage. This closes the loop in a circular economy that benefits the poor and provides a source of recycled plastic for companies like Marks & Spencer and Henkel that want to have their products identified with “social plastic.” Find out about what the Social Plastic Foundation is doing and consider making a donation.
“Preventing ocean plastic could be humanity’s richest opportunity.
An Update on the Ocean Pollution Cleanup
A major design change to The Ocean Cleanup technology has allowed it to move forward and begin implementation of large scale ocean trials later this year, two years ahead of schedule. The original scheme made headlines six years ago as the brainchild of then 16 year old Boyan Slat, and included massive floating barriers fixed to the seabed that passively, corralled plastics utilizing wind and ocean currents. The system is intended to first be deployed in the North Pacific, to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, now estimated to be twice the size of Texas.
The new design envisions, “a fleet of many smaller systems” not be attached to the seabed, said Slat. As many as 30 smaller barriers measuring about one to two-kilometers in length will be secured by drifting sea anchors. This new design also has the benefit of reducing the operational cost. (photo – EcoWatch)
“Rather than fixing the floating screens to the seabed at great depths, The Ocean Cleanup will apply sea anchors to ensure the floating screens move slower than the plastic.” Slat’s team explained “Rather than one massive barrier, the improved, modular cleanup system consists of a fleet of screens.”
The first module is in production in California and Ocean Cleanup announced that they have raised $21.7 million in donations bringing the startup’s total funding to $31.5 million. (photo – EcoWatch)
Slat’s scheme is not without its critics like Marcus Eriksen, the co-founder of The 5 Gyres Institute, who emphasized that the best way to solve the world’s ocean plastic problem is to prevent that trash from getting there in the first place.
“There is some logic to limited ocean cleanup, and the best bang for your buck is to incentivize the fishing industry to grab the old nets and rope they see floating around,” Eriksen said. “These ‘Fishing for Litter‘ campaigns are already in place and working well.”
Certainly enlisting the fishing industry in collecting discarded fishing gear is worthwhile, however the ocean plastic issue is so immense that maybe the correct approach “is all hands on board” the more involved and the more approaches the better.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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