Ocean Cleanup

Problem
A lot of garbage is being dumped and left to swim around in the world’s oceans. Due to water currents and movements, most of it gets grouped to form a “patch.” Due to its composition and low density, these patches rise to the top of the water and float around. There are many patches around the world, with the largest one, called the Great Pacific garbage patch, being discovered between California and Hawaii only in 1988. Although many countries and cities are finally starting to think about fixing the issue at its source (through waste separation and recycling/burning), it is important to also clean up the damage that has already been done. These patches mainly effect marine life as plastic finds a way into their digestive system, and as many humans depend on seafood, this is also a health risk for them.

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Boat Passing Through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Solution
A Dutch inventor called Boyan Slat and his team at TU Delft has come with a solution that takes advantage of technology that study and monitor water current movements and the garbage’s low density to efficiently collect garbage from the sea. The system has a U shape that funnels the trash into the middle of the system to efficiently pick it up and transport it back to off shore recycling facilities. The system requires no external energy source and fully relies on solar energy. Furthermore, it has a heavy anchor that can alter its speed and direction through automation and algorithms that use real time information about current movement. The system only collects trash floating on the water’s top layer, for that reason it does not go further underwater and avoids effecting nearby fish.


Stakeholders

  • The Ocean Cleanup team and researchers working on the project
  • The UN – ocean cleanup is part of their sustainable development goals and they can potentially back projects such as these
  • Manufacturers of technology used such as solar panels
  • Countries nearby these garbage patches that are directly effected
  • Fishermen and seafood suppliers

Next Steps
The project at the moment is in the latter stages of testing. Currently, they are running drift testing in the North Pacific with plans to launch their first cleanup system within the next year. The program is a foundation that relies on donations and awards to function. So reaching out to the UN and other potential backers is key to make sure the project can run smoothy. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the issue needs to fixed at its core, and that is consumers need to learn to produce less waste and effectively separate and manage it. This project needs to be used to raise more awareness on the severity of the problem and perhaps reaching out to waste awareness campaigns needs to be on the agenda.

By: Ahmad Al Zubair (aa4098)

Resources used:


Comment on “Cities Get Smart by Prioritizing Mobility
I agree that cities need to focus more on mobility and changing their transportation culture in order to reach the “next level” of being a city, a smart one more specifically. I want to focus on the examples of London and Copenhagen and their cycling culture that is growing. I previously lived in the Netherlands, a country famous for perfecting the bicycle culture. While living there, I never even considered moving around in the car and although having nice bike lanes and traffic lights and a system in place helped me feel comfortable with cycling all the time, there was also an element of safety in it. Many of these projects (for ex: building bike lanes in NYC) fail to look at the safety issues that stop many from cycling. Not only do you need to educate people on how to ride safely, a plan needs to be put in place to lower bike stealing rates in a city. I have seen many examples of people who start riding until their first bike gets stolen and they lose all “faith” in this lifestyle. This was once an issue for cars, but evidently most people do not fear that they may return from work to find their car missing. Cities need to study that closely in my opinion to give citizens the confidence and comfort of changing their transportation behavior.

 

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4 thoughts on “Ocean Cleanup

  1. The fact that this system is constantly moving, or “drifting” helps the amount of matter that it can collect. In “fixed” or no moving barrier systems, the downward strength of the water after hitting the barrier is strong, and therefore pushes the matter underneath the barrier to the other side, not capturing it. It would be good to understand if they are planning to deploy a net that can capture microplastics, as there are billions of these in the oceans, and these nets can only capture particles larger than 1 cm. While not as visible as much of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, microplastics are becoming a large problem quickly.

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  2. Ocean garbage pollution is definitely becoming a pressing global environmental problem. Although it doesn’t have a business model and is relying on donation fundings, it’s important to develop and deploy innovative technology like this to solve our common pollution. I like the fact that the system is solar based. My question for the team would be where do they put the collected garbage? How are they going to deal with them as I assume it would be difficult to find a ‘dumping’ ground on land as well.

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  3. The anchor and ballast concept is key in slowing down the system to capture the floating plastic that moves faster. In addition, the natural forces on the water helps position the system where the highest concentration of trash is to make it even more efficient.

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