Over 14 million tonnes of plastic pollute our oceans each year, threatening the lives of a wide variety of marine life. About 80% of all marine litter is plastic, indicating the extent of global plastic pollution.
Boat builders, sailors and engineers have developed innovations such as the Seabin and Mr. Trash Wheel to minimize all kinds of litter in the ocean. These mechanical cleanup inventions are fixed point devices designed to separate and remove marine debris from various bodies of water. They either suck water from the surface and intercept floating debris, or lift debris out of the water onto a conveyor belt and collect it all in a trash can.
However, reducing plastic pollution may have limited benefits. Research has shown that the device threatens marine life and may even capture unknown marine life.
Waste generation rate exceeds garbage cleaning rate
Recent marine pollution bulletin A study looking at seabins in the South West of England found an average of 58 pieces of litter per day, mainly composed of polystyrene balls, plastic pellets and plastic debris. The authors also found that for every 3.6 items of litter captured (or about 13 marine organisms per day), the device captured one marine organism (e.g., sand eel, brown shrimp, crab), half of which were collected at the time of collection. I also found dead.
Marine life may be attracted to the device to forage or seek refuge. Their mortality also appeared to increase with residence time in the machine. Some died from being trapped, possibly under the weight of the surrounding material, said Florence Parker-Jude, a research assistant at the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth, UK.
“At the current stage of development, studies have shown that the amount or mass of litter removed by the device is minimal in the environments studied, when considered in conjunction with the risk of bycatch,” said Parker-Jard. say. She notes that manual cleaning operations using pontoon nets tend to be more efficient and less resource intensive than sea bins, even though they are designed for operation in environments such as marinas, harbours, and harbors. I am adding that there is.
“Technological innovation plays a role in reducing marine litter, especially in coastal environments, where it can complement existing cleanup efforts,” Parker-Jurd said. “This study highlights the need for robust and formal evaluation of such devices, especially given the increasing use and geographic spread of his Seabin and similar devices.”
[Related: A close look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch reveals a common culprit.]
Although only one device was formally evaluated in this study, similar issues may apply to other marine cleaning devices. According to Parker-Jurd, the lack of escape routes, long hours of operation, and overtime to separate marine life from organic matter and debris before they return to the water can all contribute to marine life’s containment. There is a possibility.
Moreover, the capacity of current technological efforts to reduce plastic collection is limited relative to the extent of the plastic pollution problem. “While there is no estimate of the total removal of plastic and other debris from these devices, it is possible that the amount of trash collected pales in comparison to the amount of trash entering our environment. There’s pretty much unanimity among experts,” says Meagan Dunphy-Daly. , Director of the Duke University Oceanographic Research Scholarship Program. She was not involved in her research.
There are few scientific studies on the effectiveness of different technologies for removing plastic pollution from the environment, or rates of marine bycatch, but self-reported effectiveness is likely higher than peer-reviewed reports of effectiveness. Often, says Dunphy. -daily. Regarding the effectiveness of decontamination techniques outside of the pilot phase, weather, current and location of device deployment should be considered.
Dutch non-profit organization The Ocean Cleanup recently pile of plastic debris Some experts say they’re too clean for plastic that’s supposedly been in the water for years. The organization claimed there was no visible accumulation of algae or barnacles because the water in the litter patch was nutrient deficient. doing.
“Future studies should assess the types of marine organisms captured by these devices to determine population-level impacts and weigh the risks and benefits of using these remediation techniques.” says Dunphy-Daly.
Technology must go hand in hand with reducing plastic production and use
Developing and implementing technologies to reduce waste is only part of the solution. In the event of an oil spill, stop the leak instead of just focusing on removing the oil from the surface. When Clean it up, says Dunphy-Daly.
In the case of global plastic pollution, leaks are definitely continuing. Fighting it, she adds, requires a comprehensive approach that targets all stages of the plastic life cycle, from reducing overall production to cleaning up what has entered the environment.
That said, the invention of purifiers has effectively brought attention to the problem of marine litter. Last year, Coldplay partnered with The Ocean Cleanup to sponsor the Interceptor, a vessel or vessel aimed at removing plastic from rivers before it reaches the ocean.
[Related: Horrific blobs of ‘plastitar’ are gunking up Atlantic beaches.]
“Hopefully, generating public interest in these technologies will also target other life stages of plastics and gain support for reducing overall plastic pollution,” says Dunphy Daley. increase.
A 2021 report from the National Academy of Sciences, Academy of Engineering and Medicine argues that recycling processes and infrastructure are inadequate to manage the total amount of plastic waste produced. The authors recommend several interventions to reduce waste generation, including setting a national cap on unused plastic production and banning certain single-use plastic products.
Mechanical marine scrubbers have the potential to shape perceptions about marine litter problems and create a reliance on technological solutions to environmental problems. Therefore, this kind of intervention should continue to be evaluated, he said, Parker-Jurd. According to 2022 Society In the paper, there is excessive optimism regarding technological and scientific progress. Still, the man-made problems of our planet cannot be solved with the latest efficient technology alone.
While it is unlikely that the invention of cleaning devices will completely alleviate liability for waste and litter, evidence for their psychological impact is currently lacking and should form an important part of future research. “Our main focus should remain on systematically changing the way we produce, use and dispose of plastic,” she adds.