Innovation Towards a Cleaner Ocean

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There are well over five trillion pieces of plastic littering the ocean right now. This trash accumulates in five oceanic garbage patches, the largest of which is located in between Hawaii and California. The good news is that even as the trash increases so does the number of people working on innovations to prevent or minimize the environmental damage.

Marina Trash Skimmer

While having lunch on the coast of California, Louis Pazos watched as volunteers picked up trash along the beach. As soon as they had one area cleaned the wind would blow more rubbish, it was a never ending cycle. Pazos became fed up of swimming with trash bags and other garbage and decided it was time to make a plan. Since then  he has spent time working on the Marina Trash Skimmer, which is a, “a floating container that’s fastened to the side of a dock and looks like a Dumpster semi-submerged in water. It’s equipped with a pump that circulates water through its filter system, gently sucking in and trapping debris inside” (Hill, 2016). Pazos stated that the Marina Trash Skimmer was garbage that everyone ignored at first. However, now instead of allowing it to sink to the bottom of the seafloor or drift away in the ocean they are collecting the rubbish and preventing further environmental damage.  Since 2006, when he first began his test runs in Long Beach Harbor, Pazos has installed forty-nine Marina Trash Skimmers in Hawaii, California (with six in Newport beach), Oregon, and Texas. So far these skimmers have managed to collect and eliminate over one million pounds (or five hundred tons) primarily composed of plastic based debris.

The Ocean CleanUp

Boyan Slat, the 21 year old founder of The Ocean Cleanup released his plans to “deploy 100 kilometers of passive floating barriers in an effort to clean up 42% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patches plastic pollution in 10 years” (Kratochwill, 2016). This nonprofit organization has raised over two million dollars to carry out these plans. The system has been designed to rely on the wind, waves, and currents which will push the plastic floating along the ocean into screens that expand from the barriers acting as a skirt. The basic idea is that the current will go through the screens which will prevent “bycatch” of plants and animals. The v-shape of the system will concentrate the plastic pieces at the middle of the center. Once this has happened they will sort and process the plastic, which will then be collected every six weeks by a boat. Slat hopes that the plastic pieces that have been gathered can then be sold as recycled material. Slat explained that, “…what we’re trying to achieve has never been done before,” Slat says. It’s 100 times bigger than anything that’s ever been deployed in the ocean. It’s 50% deeper, and 10 times more remote than the world’s most remote oil rig. So obviously there [are] technical challenges.” (Kratochwill, 2016)

Innovative Tech Applied in Hawaii

While innovation is amazing and is often much better than turning a blind eye to our microplastics problem, it isn’t enough alone. At this time there is no magic bullet to cleanse our oceans of the garbage patches that pollute them, and there won’t be one for some time. Scientists estimated that to clean up all five garbage patches it would take 1000 boats, filtering water 24 hours a day, 79 years to clean up every piece of garbage. That doesn’t even take into account the infeasibility of surveying the entirety of the ocean for garbage to ensure a job well done. In fact, it was estimated that it would take 68 ships a full year to even survey a measly one percent of just the North Pacific.

So, it’s obvious that the solution to our problem will take some time. However, there are things we can do to buy time for technology to catch up to innovative ideas such as garbage eating nanobots. We can take steps to limit our purchase and usage of products containing microplastics, as well as spend a few hours here and there raising awareness.

Every year Hawaii has to face the serious oceanic plastic problem which terribly pollutes the its coastline. Since 1970s, there were 15 to 20 tons garbage got cleaned up extend almost 9 miles of coastline around South Point each year. From experts, there around five main patches of garbage and if we want to clean them up, it would need 1000 cleaning boats to filter water 24 hours for 79 years, such an impossible mission. This huge amount of trash which come from local people and most of come from globe. According to geographers’ analysis, it claims that location of Hawaii decides it has to bear these global plastic trash. Basically, Hawaii is located in a circular system of ocean currents which means all the outcome trash from Pacific Ocean would be stacked and trapped to Hawaii bay and the get push to the long coastline of Hawaii. It is quite ironic that such a beautiful place becomes to a global garbage dumping ground of oceanic plastic.

Even the disadvantages of Hawaii’s geographical position make Hawaii to be troubled with plastic pollution, there are still many volunteers who are willing to clean them up to keep the island clean and beautiful. However, the effort of volunteers to pick up trash is not enough at all for Hawaii and so there are several plans were made to clean trash efficiently. Some designers and engineers have produced marine drones and waterborne kites to drain. And another idea from London college students is to create biotechnological microorganism to “eat” or break down these plastic trash(it would still stay in ocean though). And another way to relieve the pressure to main Hawaii island is turn all the garbage into a recycled island and let people to figure these trashes sustainably.

While the oceanic plastic problem seems to unsolvable, there are still lots of researchers and engineers who are trying to keep this island clean. Therefore, the innovation of an efficient plan has to be formulate and other people should be always aware to save our ocean.

The Sea Vax

The efforts to help keep our ocean clean have been a major problem in our society. The oceans have been polluted in for many years and it has gotten worse in recent years. An invention called SeaVax is a new roaming, satellite-controlled aluminum platform powered by sun and wind operates like a giant vacuum cleaner, chewing up and compressing the toxic garbage. The 160ft long vessel is now at the top of the idea line for solutions that try to help clean our oceans and prevent our sea life from dying due to waste in the ocean. The Seavax has sensors on it to help detect the trash, also it has sonar technology that protects marine and bird life from getting caught in it. After the Bluebird Marine System worked on the Seavax for over a year they have sent the idea passed the proof of the concept stage. There have already been many inquiries from other countries that are interested in the idea because it would help them clean things like their rivers. “Innovate UK gave us a free stand at its show which has helped put us on the map, now we are looking to Europe and government for the next stage of serious backing,” says Close.

While there has already been many offers to invest money into SeaVax there is a lot more money that will be needed in the long run. If  SeaVax were to launch it would be a big hit internationally for business with people in the business of waste management to government agencies.

Sources:

Cleanup, Www.theoceancleanup.com The Ocean. “Technology.” The Ocean Cleanup. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <https://www.theoceancleanup.com/technology/&gt;.

Hill, Taylor. “Can These Inventions Save Oceans From Our Plastic Habit?” TakePart. N.p., 27 June 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <http://www.takepart.com/feature/2016/06/27/oceans-cleanup&gt;.

Kratochwill, Lindsey. “Too Good to Be True? The Ocean Cleanup Project Faces Feasibility Questions.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 26 Mar. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/26/ocean-cleanup-project-environment-pollution-boyan-slat>.

Anja Krieger / Ensia. (2016, February 25). Why Innovative Tech Solutions to Clean Up Oceanic Plastic Trash Are Simply Not Enough. Retrieved April 05, 2017, from http://www.alternet.org/environment/why-innovative-tech-solutions-clean-oceanic-plastic-trash-are-simply-not-enough

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One thought on “Innovation Towards a Cleaner Ocean

  1. randypeppler April 16, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    Under the theory of innovation to solve our problems, you did a pretty good job of outlining a number of solutions for ridding the oceans of microplastics. None of them, of course, are perfect, but at least there are people looking into this and who care about our oceans. The Sea Vax and the drones are novel solutions.

    Like

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