Tech UPTechnologyPlastic that reaches the sea: solutions

Plastic that reaches the sea: solutions

According to an estimate made by the World Economic Forum, if we continue at this rate in 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in the seas. Nobody is missing it since this pollution problem is one of the great challenges to be solved in the coming years.

Large islands of garbage in the oceans, invisible remains of microplastics that reach every corner … the solutions to reduce plastic in the seas are, first of all, to drastically reduce its use. The European Union has already outlined the first strategy on plastics, which will include the upcoming ban on single-use plastics. Another of the solutions proposed at the legislative level would be the imposition of some type of tax on the most polluting plastics, which today are still cheaper to manufacture than other more sustainable alternatives. And, let’s not forget that plastics are usually produced from oil, with implications also at the level of climate change.

Another need is to improve waste management systems and increase vigilance to prevent discarded plastic from ending up at sea. Keep in mind that, although plastic recycling systems have improved a lot, not all plastics can be recycled.

Plastic-coma bacteria

In 2016, a team of Japanese scientists discovered a bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, which was capable of digesting polyethylene terephthalate (PET), widely used for example in single-use plastic bottles. Since then, many scientists have been working on developing biotechnological solutions to take advantage of this capacity, which comes from an enzyme called PETase, to improve the recycling of this type of plastic.

Other organisms are also showing surprising capabilities that can help us recycle plastic: in 2017, another study published in the journal Current Biology told us about a Galleria mellonella worm capable of biodegrading polyethylene.

From the 3Rs, start by reducing

On the other hand, at an individual level it is relatively easy to reduce the amount of plastic that we use in our day to day, it is enough to pay attention to what we buy and use more reusable products. In addition, there are more and more alternatives to reduce the plastic we generate, in this gallery we give you a lot of ideas.

More and more people are joining the Zero Waste or zero waste culture and refusing to buy super packaged and laminated foods. This change in habits, increasingly widespread, is also an important step in solving the problem of plastic pollution in the seas of the planet.


Can you clean the oceans of plastic?

Now, even if we suddenly stopped generating plastic waste (which is not realistic either), we know that there are already millions of tons of plastic in the world’s seas and oceans.

There are some initiatives that aim to clean the sea of plastic. One of the most famous is the Ocean Cleanup project, started in 2012 by a twenty-year-old boy. It is a system that passively collects marine litter through huge floating structures that have well-calculated dimensions and depth to avoid damaging fauna and flora. This structure is placed in an area where there are ocean currents that are used to collect plastic.

This system aims to reduce the area of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch , the largest marine litter dump in the Pacific, by 50% over a period of 5 years. After a first attempt in which many problems were identified, its second prototype is currently, according to the foundation itself, successfully capturing plastic waste. In fact, it appears that the system has also successfully collected 1 millimeter microplastics.


The Norwegian tycoon who wants to clean the ocean of plastic

Another macro-initiative aimed at solving the problem of marine litter comes, curiously, from a millionaire named Kjell Inge Røkke who made his fortune thanks to oil extraction.

His non-profit organization is called REV Ocean and was founded in June 2017. One of his projects is the construction of the largest ocean research vessel that will seek, among other things, new solutions to clean plastic from the oceans.

In any case, the problem is complex and the solution is not unique, but it is necessary to put the batteries to end this problem that is affecting so much the ecosystems of the world’s oceans.

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