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Daily Archives: 18. June 2014 − News & Stories


The Oce­an Cle­a­nup: solu­ti­on for the glo­bal pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on pro­blem

Pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on in the oce­ans is one of the tru­ly threa­tening pro­blems for the envi­ron­ment on a glo­bal sca­le, inclu­ding the Arc­tic. You can see ama­zing amounts of pla­s­tics on many of Spitsbergen’s bea­ches, a lot from fishe­ries, but also ever­y­day use pla­s­tic items inclu­ding tooth­brushes, ligh­ters, bot­t­les and so on and so forth. The list is end­less. For an impres­si­on, have a look at the famous pho­tos taken by pho­to­grapher Chris Jor­dan on the remo­te Mid­way Islands in the Paci­fic: Alba­tross chicks who died with a sto­mach fil­led of pla­s­tic gar­ba­ge, becau­se it loo­ked like food to their par­ents.

On almost every trip in Spits­ber­gen, we coll­ect seve­ral cubic met­res of pla­s­tic gar­ba­ge from remo­te bea­ches, which has led to visi­ble impro­ve­ments in many places over the years (and by the way, nobo­dy has the capa­ci­ty to coll­ect com­pa­ra­ble amounts of pla­s­tics in such remo­te are­as as tou­rist ships!). This is good, but obvious­ly not the solu­ti­on to a glo­bal pro­blem.

Some impres­si­ons of pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on on Spitsbergen’s bea­ches, from Bear Island in the south to Nord­aus­t­land in the far nor­the­ast, and of our efforts to clean some of the­se bea­ches.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Every day, pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on is kil­ling lar­ge num­bers of fish, sea­birds, mammals (from seals to dol­phins and wha­les) and turt­les in the world’s oce­ans. And pro­ba­b­ly even worse, once waves and UV radia­ti­on have grind the pla­s­tics down into micro­sco­pic par­tic­les, plank­ton is eating it, thus incor­po­ra­ting pla­s­tic in the food chain, whe­re it is enri­ched on every tro­phic level upwards.

To real­ly do some­thing about pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on, it would be neces­sa­ry to:

  • use much less pla­s­tic items in our ever­y­day life. This is for ever­y­bo­dy. How often do you throw a pla­s­tic bag away after having used it only once?
  • replace pla­s­tics with bio-deg­redable mate­ri­als. Next to con­su­mers, indus­try, sci­ence and poli­tics all need to do their home­work to achie­ve this.
  • redu­ce the incre­di­ble amounts of pla­s­tics alre­a­dy pre­sent in the world’s oce­ans today. And this is whe­re it is curr­ent­ly get­ting inte­res­t­ing: after seve­ral years of work, The Oce­an Cle­a­nup has published a fea­si­bi­li­ty report, intro­du­cing a rea­li­stic con­cept to remo­ve pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on from the oce­an on a glo­bal­ly rele­vant sca­le. The main idea is to let the curr­ents do the main work: install shal­low bar­riers that catch pla­s­tics and con­cen­tra­te them so they are rela­tively easy to remo­ve from the water. The water and ani­mals keep drif­ting under the bar­ri­er to redu­ce by-catch. Cos­ts are esti­ma­ted at 4.50 Euro per kg pla­s­tic or 33 times less than other methods available, accor­ding to The Oce­an Cle­a­nup. The pro­ject claims that it should be pos­si­ble to redu­ce the amount of pla­s­tics floa­ting in the infa­mous Paci­fic Gar­ba­ge Patch by 50 % over 10 years at cos­ts small com­pared to the dama­ge done by the pla­s­tics both to mari­ne eco­sys­tems and eco­no­mies.

The impres­si­on remains that The Oce­an Pro­ject is likely able to make a signi­fi­cant con­tri­bu­ti­on to the solu­ti­on of an urgent glo­bal pro­blem, at a pri­ce more than reasonable. To lift the pro­ject up to the next level, 2 mil­li­on dol­lars are to be coll­ec­ted via crowd­fun­ding. At the time of wri­ting (18 June), more than half a mil­li­on have alre­a­dy been dona­ted. The pre­sent aut­hor and owner of this web­site has alre­a­dy made his con­tri­bu­ti­on and asks the rea­der kind­ly to con­sider a dona­ti­on. If you have seen the amounts of pla­s­tics on remo­te bea­ches in Spits­ber­gen or else­whe­re or if you have seen Chris Jordan’s abo­ve-men­tio­ned pho­tos, they you are pro­ba­b­ly hap­py to sup­port The Oce­an Cle­a­nup. Click here to get to The Oce­an Cle­a­nup crowd­fun­ding web­site.

And remem­ber a cot­ton bag for your next shop­ping trip … 🙂

Crew and pas­sen­gers of SV Anti­gua coll­ec­ting pla­s­tic gar­ba­ge in Wood­fjord, north Spits­ber­gen. This is done on almost every trip, also by other ships.

Collecting plastic garbage, Mushamna (Spitsbergen)

Source: The Oce­an Cle­a­nup

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