Marine debris removal 101
BY GUEST STUDENT BLOGGER, MOLLY VINCENT
Readers of Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch often ask why someone doesn’t try to clean up the ocean. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as it sounds, as explained in this previous blog post. The sheer size of the ocean garbage patches, the winds, storm, waves, and currents, and the marine life that either colonizes plastic or becomes entangled in it are just some of the difficulties plastic clean-up inventors face.
- Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is home to a solar-powered device called the Trash Wheel. This new innovation picks up debris before it hits the Chesapeake Bay. Operating since May 2014, the wheel scoops up 25 tons of trash per day. As of April 2015, the device has picked up 40,000 grocery bags, 84,000 plastic bottles, and 4.2 million cigarette butts.
- Twenty-year-old Dutch inventor and entrepreneur Boyan Slat will attempt to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch this coming August. The expedition, which sails between Hawaii and Los Angeles, will send 50 vessels to collect more plastic in three weeks than has been collected in the past 40 years. Behind each vessel is a compact surface trawl will catch smaller plastic pieces. The Ocean Cleanup will use a 100km-long floating barrier that allows ocean currents to collect the plastic themselves. Through the three-week expedition, explorers will measure the total mass of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as well as the distribution of plastic across the surface of the patch.
But the hands-down best way to keep the ocean clean is to make sure trash never makes it out to sea. A simple way to reduce debris is to cut out disposable plastic straws. A straw is used for 20 minutes on average. And although it spends les than half an hour in our mouths, it spends several hundred years in a landfill. For the past 25 years, the straw is one of the top ten items found on beaches around the world. If you must use straws, consider reusable ones made out of glass, stainless steel, bamboo, and BPA-free plastic. Pledge to Take the Last Straw Challenge, and when you eat out, ask your waiter to omit the straw from your drink.
Are you ready for a few other ways to reduce your plastic consumption? Try these equally easy solutions to keep trash out of the ocean:
- When ordering a pizza to-go, ask the waiter to hold the pizza table. That little piece of plastic that keeps the pizza from sticking to the top of the box. The plastic doesn’t enhance the pizza in any way.
- Request a cone for your ice cream. You won’t waste paper cups or plastic utensils.
- Use solid or powdered products. Bar soap is just as effective as liquid soap, but it doesn’t use bulky plastic packaging.