The Monitor Daily (U.S.) – Imperial College London researchers hacked the best solution to tackle plastic pollution in the ocean. According to their study featuring in the Environmental Research Letters, tackling plastic pollution should start with off coast plastic barriers instead of focusing on cleaning up the Great Pacific garbage patch.
In December 2015, another study also published in the Environmental Research Letters estimated plastic particles floating in the globe’s oceans at 236,000 metric tons or 51 trillion plastic particles. The massive amount of plastic found in the globe’s ocean is alarming.
More and more reports of marine wildlife and seabirds ingesting plastic remains or being stranded in plastic are surfacing. All the desolate images of seagulls, turtles or fish with plastic in their bellies are proof of plastic pollution’s extent. What could be done to contain the phenomenon and clean up the globe’s oceans?
There are several approaches on the matter. The reputed Ocean Cleanup Project brought forth the idea to install plastic barriers around the most problematic area. The Great Pacific Garbage patch concentrates massive amounts of plastic particles. The center of plastic pollution in the globe’s oceans is found here. As this is an open area in the North Pacific, ocean currents bring plastic dumped on the coast and concentrate the amounts over an area twice larger than the United Kingdom.
The greatest contributors to plastic pollution in the ocean are emerging Asian economies. Moreover, China and Indonesia rank first in terms of plastic dumped on the coast. Plastic only decomposes to a certain degree. Plastic particles may take between tens and hundreds of years to fully dissolve. Even then, the toll on ecosystems and the environment tilts the balance for the worst.
Against this background, Erik van Sebille and Peter Sherman with the Imperial College London advocate for a spin-off of the approach advocated by the Ocean Cleanup Project. In their study, the researchers conclude that tackling plastic pollution should start with off coast plastic barriers.
Thus, plastic particles would be prevented to travel as far as the Great Pacific Garbage patch. Erik van Sebille stated in a press release that this approach makes sense. Removing plastic particles at the time they enter the ocean from the coastal economic centers and dense coastal population centers is more effective than waiting until they have been carried out in ocean.
By the time plastic particles reach the Great Pacific Garbage patch they may have already negatively affected ecosystems and wildlife. The Imperial College London study tracked the floating of plastic particles by surface and satellite. These observations were used to simulate plastic particles movement over the next decade. The analysis included plastic pollution sources and best approaches to tackle plastic pollution.
Installing plastic barrier to contain plastic pollution around the Great Pacific Garbage patch was found to capture only 17 percent of the plastic waste. Off-coast plastic barriers deployed near China’s or Indonesia’s coast could efficiently remove 31 percent of the plastic waste dumped in the ocean.
Photo Credits: geograph.org.uk