Plastic pollution is a problem that needs a definite, if not immediate solution. You have probably heard this rhetoric too often. How does carelessly disposed of plastic affect the environment and the ocean in particular? We answer these questions and introduce you to some mind-blowing innovations that could minimize, if not eliminate the problem.
The Problem of Plastic in the Ocean and the Environment
Plastic pollution causes more problems for the Earth than many of us may realize. A carelessly thrown plastic mineral water bottle into the river has lasting, but far-reaching effects. Plastic Pollution is more harmful than we’re aware of.
Plastic is cheap and durable, so you’ll find many bags and bottles made of it around. The chemical processes used to manufacture it make it nearly impossible to degrade. There are about 150 million tonnes of plastic floating in our oceans.
Accumulated plastic clogs waterways, land, and seas. The statistics are alarming. Manufacturers produce over 380 million tonnes of plastic annually but recycle only 9%. This excess plastic finds its way into the tummies of seabirds and marine life.
90% of seabirds contain plastic. We can reduce plastic pollution by promoting reusing and recycling. The amount of plastic continues to grow, and the consequences of this growth are scary. It is not only harmful to wildlife, but also for humans.
We ingest it because we are at the top of the food chain. A recent Belgian study showed that Europeans consume more than 11000 tons of plastic annually.
The most significant effect of plastic pollution is climate change
Perhaps the worst result of plastic pollution in the ocean is climate change. Research by environmentalist Sarah Jean Royer found that plastics give off greenhouse gases.
You probably already know that greenhouse gases raise global temperatures, damage ecosystems, and cause storms. We need to stop plastic pollution to prevent global warming. Royer found that greenhouse gases increase plastic surfaces as they break down in the ocean.
6 Smart Innovations That Could Solve the Problem of Plastic in the Ocean
Excess plastic in seas and oceans is potentially hazardous, but we should take heart. A few smart innovations do bring some hope. Here’s more about what they are and how they can minimize the problem.
1. Ocean Cleanup Array
First of all is Ocean Cleanup Array, an innovation that involves processing platforms and floating booms, created by 19-year-old Boyan Slat. These would scan a garbage patch and force the plastics in their direction. One can separate them from the debris and recycle them.
Slat has founded the ocean cleanup foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing his technologies.
2. A Sea bin
Next on the list is a sea bin developed by Australian Surfers Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski. The device that they have docked in marinas may reduce plastic pollution. It works with a pump that runs onshore water. This astounding device filters nearly every type of material from the ocean.
3. Drainage Nets
Kwinana City in Western Australia installed two drainage nets in Henley Reserve at the point where rubbish, including plastics, discharges into open spaces and reserves. Since the project has proved to be a success, the city has decided to install three other nets within the reserve to catch even more rubbish.
4. Inner Harbor Water Wheel
You will find the next innovation in Baltimore. Called the Inner Harbour Water Wheel, it collects plastic bags and other rubbish discharged into the Jones River. It then deposits the garbage into a dumpster barge. What’s most incredible about this device is that it runs on solar power. Now, that’s saving the environment in more ways than one.
5. The Global Ghost Gear Initiative
Ghost Fishing Gear, or abandoned fishing litter, makes up about 10% of marine litter. This program has supported at least 20 projects around the world, including:
- The NOAA’s Fishing for Energy Program, which turns fishing gear into useable energy;
- The Net-Works program in Africa and the Phillippines, which focuses on collecting unwanted nets;
- The Olive Ridley Project in the Maldives, which collects nets in the Indian Ocean;
- and Fishing for Litter, which searches for Ghost Nets throughout Great Britain, Scandinavian and other parts of Western Europe.
Finally, we have Pyrolysis, a Recycling Machine developed by Recycling Technologies that turns plastics into oil. It breaks them down molecules that turn into a substance named Plaxx. Plaxx is a fuel that can help vehicles and companies of the future run their operations.
How We Can Prevent the Problem of Plastic in the Ocean
We don’t have to come up with exciting innovations such as those described above to prevent plastic pollution. It’s simple enough to do our part to reduce our rubbish and protect the environment.
1. Not depending on disposable plastics
First of all, we can reduce our use of plastic shopping bags and boxes. We throw 90% of the plastics we use away. This number includes plastic straws, bags, and cutlery. To reduce this number, we can use microwavable boxes, and bring our shopping bags instead of relying on those from stores. Do your part by supporting government bans on plastics.
2. Not buying mineral water
Also, our busy lifestyles afford us little time to fill up water bottles. It’s tempting to grab mineral water off shelves in supermarkets. However, spending a few minutes filling one up means one less plastic bottle that may swallow an unwitting fish.
3. Cook More
Furthermore, we can cook instead of depending on Takeout in plastic boxes. This option may not sound attractive when you are desperately busy, but consider it because it will mean less plastic in our waterways. If you must eat takeaway meals, use kitchen containers instead of those that restaurants provide.
4. Stop using microbeads
These are the plastic scrubbers that you’ll find on facial scrubs, body washes, and toothpaste. Use natural exfoliants instead.
5. Use recyclable dry cleaning bags
Do you go to the dry cleaner often? Then you’d be familiar with the plastic zipper bag it uses to store your clothes.
In all, consciousness and being innovative is the key to solving the problem of plastic in the ocean. Doing our small bit matters.