June 8th was World Oceans Day. The main thrust this year was to emphasise the amount of garbage being dumped each and every day, and what we can do about it.
Some of the statistics are frightening.
For example, over the next 10 years, it is estimated that 250 million metric tons of plastic could make its way into the ocean. In many cases, this plastic simply sinks to the seabed or washes up on shores, but as it degrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it can be easily digested by fish and marine mammals.
We need to do something quickly, but we also need to fix the way we deal with our rubbish.
As dedicated followers of tech, we also need to consider how we consume the gadgets that we love, and more importantly, how we dispose of them.
The Plastic Problem
In 1988, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that in regions governed by ocean currents, marine debris would accumulate. Particularly, they suggested that such an accumulation was probably in the North Pacific Gyre. A “gyre” is any large system of rotating currents, and there are a number of them in the oceans on earth.
In 1999, Charles Moore was returning from a sailing race through the North Pacific Gyre, and he reported a huge amount of floating debris. The problem turned out to be much worse than initially thought because much of the pollution is invisible to the naked eye. The plastics are sometimes almost microscopic in size, but the volume of it is huge. In fact, it’s estimated that the size of the area, now dubbed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is bigger than the state of Texas.
The image at the top of this blog shows one of the solutions to the big problem of ocean-based plastic waste. Boyan Slat is the visionary that thought up the idea of vast barriers that are anchored in the sea. These barriers will concentrate the plastic waste, making it easier to collect.
The natural currents that created the problem in the first place would then help to collect the waste as the barriers would have to move anywhere. The sea water would simply filter through, and the plastic would be collected.
However, then there’s the question of what to do with the plastic, and luckily, there’s a solution. Having deployed tests in various places around the world, they’ve discovered that the plastic is suitable to be turned into oil. This means the waste eventually becomes a fuel source.
There is a problem, however, in that the publicity that surrounds this clean-up effort will have a detrimental effect on campaigns to stop the waste occurring in the first place. This is why it is critical that along with a solution to solve the existing problem, we also consider our use of plastics and how we dispose of them.
Gadgets can help us live richer, better and more exciting lives, however if we are not careful when we dispose of them, we could be storing up problems for our children. It is important, therefore, that we are considerate to the environment.
Luckily, this is becoming easier for us as consumers as local councils are now providing easier methods of disposing of products. For example, recycling bins are a common sight in front of houses and recycling plants are in use all over the country. These vast machines have the ability to sift and sort rubbish so that a minimum amount makes its way to landfill.
However, these initiatives only work if we use them properly.
Pollution, unfortunately, is a huge problem. We only have one planet, so it is absolutely essential we look after it.
The Ocean Cleanup Array is a fantastic technological solution to a huge problem, but it’s a problem that shouldn’t be there in the first place.