Plastic Knowledge

What Happens To The Plastic In Our Oceans?


by Lynsey Rebbeck

Over the last few years many of us have had an increasing awareness that the plastic rubbish in our environment is a serious issue. We are all aware of the rubbish we see on our streets and beaches. Even the imagery used on social media of polluted rivers. Perhaps some of us are not as aware of the plastic in the oceans and the sheer volume of plastic waste on beaches in certain parts of the world. The top 3 beaches most affected by plastic waste have been rated to be:

1) Kamilo Beach, Hawaii

2) Haina Beach, Dominican Republic

3) Juhu Beach, Mumbai India.

Plastic in Ocean - rubbish on a beach

Kamilo Beach is just off the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. At approximately 3 times the size of France it is the largest of five garbage patches in our oceans. Rain water picks up plastic as it flows into our rivers and canals. This then creates these plastic garbage patches, also known as ‘plastic soup’. It then flows into our oceans and the ocean currents called ‘gyres’ collect the litter like a whirlpool.

Of the plastic rubbish in our oceans, 80% is dumped by industry and people on land. The rest is from fisheries, shipping and off-shore industry. Thankfully there are several brilliant minds working on clearing the rubbish from our oceans with new innovations being developed all the time.

The Ocean Cleanup

Boat in the Ocean - referring to plastic in the ocean

The Ocean Cleanup was founded by Boyan Slat. The organisation has conducted a huge amount of research into the plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans. Although they have had a little controversy…There has been talk about them taking away from the focus of encouraging populations to go plastic free. Or reducing the conversation on the damage plastic has to sea life or how it intereferes with shipping routes. Personally we think cleaning the ocean waste while it is still large enough to collect and recycle, is very important.

The Ocean Cleanup has developed the System 001/B which has been trialed in the region of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It has successfully collected plastic to bring back to land for recycling. Their technology consists of a large, very long tube structure with a skirt that curves forming a u shape. The tube floats on the surface and retains the microplastics, small plastic items and large plastic items until the Ocean Cleanup ships can collect the debris and bring it back to land for recycling. For further information on The Ocean Cleanup follow this link.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, as the Ocean Cleanup System is removing plastic from the ocean the rivers continue to add plastic litter back! To combat the continuous feed of plastic waste they have developed The Ocean Cleanup Interceptor. There are 3 Interceptors currently removing litter from 3 major rivers that are huge plastic waste contributors around the world. To find out more about the Ocean Cleanup Interceptor click here.

The Great Bubble Barrier

The Bubble Barrier - a smart solution to plastic in the ocean

The Great Bubble Barrier was founded by Francis Zoet, Saskia Studer and Anne Marieke Eveleens and is based in North Amsterdam. 

It is literally a barrier of bubbles created by pumping air through a tube laid along the bottom of a river with holes located to allow the bubbles to rise. Bubbles direct the plastic rubbish to the waters surface where the bubble barrier, combined with the current, brings the rubbish to the side for easy collection and removal. A trial has been carried out with a 200m tube in the IJessel and they successfully collected 86% of the test material. To find out more about the Great Bubble Barrier click here.

Fionn Ferreira

Fionn Ferreira holding an award - trying to remove plastic from oceans

Fionn Ferreira won the Google 2019 science fair with his experiment to extract microplastics from water.

According to BusinessInsider.com, Fionn Ferreira – 18yrs old – noticed while kayaking one day, not only the amount of plastic along the waters edge but also oil coating a rock. This inspired him to consider how like attracts like in nature and whether ferrofluid – a magnetic liquid used to dampen vibrations in speakers and other electronic equipment – could be used to attract the plastic microparticles from water. His experiments have been successful with approximately 88% of microplastics being removed from his water samples. It is thought that this technology could be used to extract the microplastics from wastewater from our homes and businesses such as those found from washing machine waste water. You can find more info here.

One thing that each of these incredible inventors maintains is that whilst these innovations can help reduce the amount of plastic waste they are not the solution. The solution is that we stop using plastic altogether. This is a high order for our modern way of life.

Whilst we wait for manufacturers, government and the conglomerates to change their policies with regards the use of plastic, we can implement the following to start making a difference;

1. Reducing plastic consumption by using reusables where possible, fabric bags, stainless steel containers etc. See our LOOLYN blogs on removing plastic from your life for further ideas.

2. When you are going for a walk bring a compostable bag and pick up any litter that you see.

3. Volunteer to participate in beach clean ups.

4. Look into your local communities that enable the recycling of ‘non-recyclables’ (plastics that are not accepted kerbside) through Terracycle.

There are new innovations all the time. Here at LOOLYN we will continue to follow the great progress being made to reduce the plastic waste on our planet. 

If you have any news on elimination innovations for plastic in our oceans please get in touch below!

Alternatively, why not share this post with your friends or follow along on Instagram  and Facebook!

Thanks for reading!

Lynsey

Want to read more plastic related articles? Then check out our guide to plastic in your tea here.

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