To Transform the Plastic Crisis: Invest in Waste Capture Technologies
(This is part of the series for 7 Main Areas of Focus to Transform the Plastic Crisis)
Whether on land, near shore, open ocean or seabed the world has a LOT of plastic waste that it needs to deal with that is already here. Given this situation, there is much room to develop technologies to capture them to turn them into a resource while cleaning up the environment. From mining landfills to beach-cleanups and investing in nearshore solutions to picking up the waste at the depths all of it is required. Every bit of the plastic that is left in the environment releases toxins and micro-plastics in our environment and ocean.
Below are a few technologies that exist that can be useful when applied at a large and global scale — looking for investors:
Mr. Trashwheel — This googly-eyed technology in the Baltimore harbor has single-handedly cleaned up the local water enough to eliminate the unpleasant smells that used to be a trademark of adjacent areas. Currently, the technology is only implemented in one location with another one reportedly on the way. They’ve cleaned up over 1million pounds in 5 years. Because this has a larger volume than single beach-clean-ups it is more effective in causing a dent in the world’s plastic problem if implemented at scale around the world.
Seabins — These bins are great to have in marinas as they are out of the way, easy to install and cost-effective in operations. The marinas in Europe report high satisfaction and more importantly visible results in just one year. The technology is easy for marinas to install and promote ocean and water health locally and with their customers — no dumping, as well as consequences for oil leakage. Seabins are one of the few clean-up options that actually also clean-up the oil and other chemicals in the water. They also provide annual water health monitoring to ensure proper operations and maximum impact.
Marina Trash Skimmers — Based out of California, these are bigger than the Seabins. They are meant to capture anything and everything that is floating in the water. They are implemented in over 7 States and have clean-up more than 170,000 pounds of trash per year in just one location in Maryland.
Storm X Trash Traps — This Georgia, USA based company has two main products to capture plastics from entering the waterways. Whether it’s the trash that’s blowing away from the bins on the streets and around waterways or just the junk that goes through stormwater drains, their technologies enable communities to keep the trash from going into the ocean. The collected trash is then either sent to a recycling facility or landfill, depending on the ratio of collected material. Just one of their trash bands in Maryland saved over 100,000 pounds of trash from going to the ocean in 2018!
The Ocean Clean-up Project — This is a brand new technology and is focused on inventing an approach to clean-up the plastics from the middle of the ocean. A feat many experts, conservationists, oceanographers have repeatedly announced as being impossible due to environmental challenges of the open ocean. Wishing this endeavor much luck and whether the technology that is developed at the end is able to clean-up in the middle of the ocean, maximize the efficiency of coastal cleanup technologies, or enable pick-ups at depth — it is already bringing in much media and public attention on the issue.
A topic that is not covered is creating clean-up technologies at the depths of the ocean. For the past few years, especially since plastic bottles were found at the deepest point of the ocean — The Mariana Trench, experts have been aware and growingly concerned of the implications. Once plastic is in saltwater for a few years it starts disintegrating and turning into micro-plastics that are likely to float up and become surface layer debris to be picked up by fish, that are eaten by bigger fish and eventually by us. There is no technology that is currently known to address this problem. How can we start picking up the litter that is sitting at the bottom of the ocean?
There is much room for innovations to scale-up what already exists and develop new technologies that will make it possible to remove plastics before they accumulate to be more than the number of fish in the ocean.
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