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The Great Cleanup: A Solution to Ocean Pollution

The Great Cleanup: A Solution To Ocean Pollution

With the rapid rate of industrial and technological advancement across the world, a staggering amount of waste is generated by human activity every day, and much of this waste ends up polluting water bodies such as oceans, threatening marine life

Ocean pollution sources can be categorized into two; point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution.

Pollution that originates from a single source like an oil or chemical spill is known as point source pollution. This type of pollution usually has a very large impact on water bodies but luckily, they occur less often.

The other source of pollution (non-point source) is the biggest source of ocean pollution and it occurs as a result of overflow from many small sources. Some examples of non-point source pollution include; cars, trucks, boats, livestock ranches and septic tanks.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (U.S.A)

  • Approximately 1.4 billion pounds of trash per year enters the ocean.
  • Over one million seabirds are killed by ocean pollution each year.
  • Three hundred thousand dolphins and porpoises die each year as a result of becoming entangled in discarded fishing nets, among other items and one hundred thousand sea mammals are killed in the ocean by pollution each year.

Oil spills are the fastest source of ocean deterioration and they are more harmful than trash and waste. It is interesting to know that only a handful of spills come from actual oil spills. Most occur as a result of drainage from land and this causes severe damage by changing the entire ecosystem of an affected area.

Besides oil spills, marine debris (plastic bags, bottles, etc.) is one big problem that is threatening the sustainability of our oceans. About 80% of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a huge body of garbage in the Pacific Ocean), comes from land, according to United Nations estimates.

The evidence of pollution in our oceans is very obvious and it has been forecasted that by 2050, if necessary measures are not taken to curb ocean pollution, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.

For this reason, a technology company called “The Ocean Cleanup” located in Netherlands invented a passive system to remove half the great pacific garbage patch in 5 years at a fraction of the cost.

Clearing the great pacific using conventional methods would take thousands of years and tens of billions to complete.

The Ocean Cleanup’s passive system is designed and developed to move with the currents just like the plastic, to catch it.


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The passive system comprises of;

  1. A Floater: The floater is a hard-walled pipe made from high density polythene and is around 1-2km in length. Its main purpose is to catch plastic together with a screen. The pipe is flexible enough to follow the ocean waves and maintain a U-shape.
  2. A Screen: The screen works hand-in-hand with the floater. It is made up of fiber-reinforced thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and can last on the sea for decades. Since most buoyant plastic mass is found within the top few meters of the ocean, it will be able to catch anything from 1cm plastic particles to large fishing nets.
  3. An Anchor: An anchor is suspended as deep as 600m so as to slow down the system by making it move slower than the plastic. External forces like waves, winds and currents also affect The Ocean Cleanup but the system automatically falls to areas of high plastic concentration in order to ensure a high cleanup rate.
  4. Shipping: Once the cleanup system is full, a support vessel that uses pumps and belts is used to convey absorbed materials back to land for recycling.

Imagine your next shoe or phone made from recycled plastic from the Ocean?

There are really no limits to what technology can do to help our environment become greener.

In the meantime, do your best to reduce your impact on the environment by practicing the 3 R’s of recycling : Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.



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