Written by Patrick Green
I find it very difficult to be hopeful regarding the state of our planet. There are numerous problems which we face at the moment- politics and social progress aside- the survival of the planet itself is in the balance. Plastic pollution is something which the world really seems to be getting its teeth sunk into at the moment and the rise in awareness is a really positive thing. I remember learning about the Pacific Ocean garbage patch when I was at school, so the fact we are giving attention to the issue of plastic now is positive, but also painstakingly late given its size.
“…the survival of the planet itself is in the balance”
According to The Ocean Clean Up there is approximately between 1.15-2.41 million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year. That is new plastic entering the ocean, not even taking into account what is there already – the figures are startling and frankly terrifying. I’d like to focus on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). It has an estimated surface size of 1.6 million square kilometres – three times the size of France, and France is hardly a small country. It is also estimated to weigh about 80,000 tonnes with an estimated total of 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic floating there. With figures such as these circulating, it is incredibly daunting and easy to think ‘Well what can we do?’. I recently went on holiday abroad and was shocked to not encounter a recycling bin once; if whole countries are seemingly not even recycling then what is my reusable bottle going to do in the grand scheme of things? What power do I have to change the way we treat our environment?
The answer, I think, is not huge amounts. I can do what I can – such as recycle, use non-plastic alternatives where possible and help to spread the word of ways we can help. I’m not a science or conservation student, but then I don’t need to be. We all have platforms that we can discuss these issues on. But individual efforts seem so small in comparison to the mammoth task we have in front of us.
Do not despair though. The Ocean Clean Up brings hope, and something I believe is genuinely worthwhile getting behind. On the 9th of September ‘System 001’ launched – which doesn’t really sound as cool as it actually is. The system is a part of an effort to clean up the Ocean and get rid of the GPGP – the main aim is to have cleared up 50% of this huge patch by 2025 (by which time there will be 60 systems operating). System 001 is currently travelling 250-350 miles offshore for a two-week trial, after which it will head to the GPGP, 1200 miles offshore.
“The Ocean Clean Up brings hope”
So, how does it work? Well the system takes the form of a 600m long floating band which sits at the surface of the sea, whilst a 3m skirt hangs below. This stops plastic going over or under the system. The system uses both currents and wind to move, meaning it can travel faster than the plastic, which will allow it to effectively scoop up the rubbish. Then, every few months, a ship will come to collect the plastic and transport it to land where it will be sorted for recycling. For more details, follow this hyper link.
This is huge. This poses the least harm to the environment whilst cleaning it up at the same time, with minimal cost. This could be a start, one in the right direction. Getting behind causes like these and getting the word out is what we have the responsibility to do. We can’t all be the inventors behind these concepts, but we can be the campaigners and canvassers. Efforts like these are surely fuel for hope.