In our last two posts we talked about ocean plastic and how it harms the planet. Let’s see what scientists have in store to solve this problem:
Some people are working on using bacteria to degrade ocean plastic , but currently there is little understanding of the full consequences . Another approach is to filter the plastic out bit by bit. This is sometimes done with nets, but so far this has not been done on a large scale .
A more technological solution is proposed by The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit company that develops machines to collect plastic from parts of the ocean where it naturally builds-up . However, there are critics saying that the project is not very effective and has negative side-effects [4,5].
In the end, the best way to avoid ocean plastic is to not let plastic enter the ocean in the first place [8,9]. Let’s see how:
About 80% of ocean plastic comes from land , mostly via rivers . Over two-thirds of this is estimated to be from just 20 rivers, most of which are in Asia . Improving plastic disposal in these areas could hugely reduce the plastic entering rivers. Moreover, we can collect plastic from rivers before it enters the sea [11,14]. Microplastics could be removed using filters .
The remaining 20% of ocean plastic comes from ships . There are already laws to prevent littering of fishing gear into the ocean, but they are not fully effective . So, we need better enforcement of these laws. This should also benefit fishermen in the long-term since its estimated that floating plastic costs fishermen up to 5% of revenue e.g. through damage to nets and propellers .
We conclude: improving plastic disposal and recycling could have a huge effect and should be our primary focus in the fight against ocean plastic.
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