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Home* News and Stories → The Oce­an Cleanup: solu­ti­on for the glo­bal plastic pol­lu­ti­on pro­blem

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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last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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