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Oceans in trouble

Oceans in trouble

The world over, our oceans are rapidly acidifying, warming and losing oxygen. These factors are leading to sea-level rise, loss of biodiversity and changing weather patterns. The United Nation’s most recent report on the effects of climate change on our oceans is devastating. There’s been a lot of media attention given lately to tech solutions meant to bring salvation – including some that have proved to be in need of a little more work. But there are more possible cures for ocean woes out there; some of them, we hope, will show substance behind the hype.

The Seabin

The Seabin
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Will this floating garbage collector, invented by Australian surfers, succeed where Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Project initially failed? Some 860 of the Seabincans are installed at marinas around the world – unlike Boyat’s invention, the Wilson pipe, collecting debris before it hits the open ocean – and they’re apparently on track to capture almost one million kilograms of disposable cups and plastic bags, bottles and utensils. Using a submersible water pump to pull in water (and garbage), the device seems to be living up to its promise, perhaps even more so now that its inventors have come up with a filter that catches 2mm-sized microplastics, reports CNET.

Here ar 45 facts that will stop you using plastics. 

FRED

FRED
Via clearbluesea.org

In April, a team of engineering students at University of California, San Diego launched FRED into California’s Mission Bay. A “floating robot” catamaran designed to “eliminate debris” (hence the vessel’s name), this was just a test float for FRED, which uses conveyor belts to pull in bobbing garbage with an aim to help clean up the utter ecological plastics disaster that is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, according to the Washington Post. If all goes according to plan, FRED’s inventors hope to fix its bugs and test its clean-up abilities in the San Diego Bay and Tijuana River.

Learn some of the brilliant ways other countries are replacing plastics. 

The ocean cleanup (again)

The ocean cleanup (again)
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When Boyan Slat’s initial attempt to suck up Garbage Patch particles went bust, he went back to the drawing board. In late 2019, his latest prototype finally managed its first “successful collection,” according to the Washington Post, pulling in “enough trash to fill a shipping container.” To set his company apart from all the other contenders out there, Slat intends to have any plastic his machine collects certified as genuine ocean plastic, which he believes he can then sell to manufacturers to turn into high-end recycled products.

Mr Trash Wheel

Mr Trash Wheel
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Since it began operating in 2014, Mr. Trash Wheel, a sort of paddleboat-like contraption that collects garbage from the Jones Fall watershed in Baltimore, had collected 14 tons of refuse, according to its website – including 715,000 plastic bags, almost 12 million cigarette butts, 1.2 million foam containers, 1.1 million plastic bottles, 4,600 balls, one keg, one guitar, and one ball python. As a stable, in-place operation, it doesn’t need any power to get around and so is able to run sustainably on a mix of solar and hydropower.

Turning plastic to oil

Turning plastic to oil
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What if, instead of having to fish plastic out of the water, we made sure it didn’t get in there in the first place? Curtailing single-use plastics would be the most logical way to go but, since we seem to be a long way from mustering the will to make that happen, a British company called Recycling Technologies has invented a way to break down a variety of plastics into oil. As Bloomberg reports, the RT’s potentially revolutionary machine works on pyrolysis, melting plastic down into a vapor, which can be cooled into fuel dubbed Plaxx, or, alternately, two different kinds of wax.

Here are some crazy facts about earth you didn’t learn about in school. 

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Washing machine filter

Washing machine filter
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The miracle soft fleece fabric so many of us know and love is actually a menace to our oceans, shedding microparticles of the recycled plastic it’s made from with every wash. In fact, a study commissioned by Patagonia, itself a maker of fleece clothing, found that laundering a single fleece jacket releases as many as 250,000 fibres into our waterways; 100,000 fleece jackets release the equivalent of the plastic found in almost 12,000 plastic bags into the ocean every year, Outside reports. Enter PlanetCare’s washing machine filter that can catch microplastics too small for a regular washing machine filter, helping to keep it out of the bellies of marine life.

You’ll wish you knew these expert laundry tips sooner. 

PETase

PETase
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The concept of making plastic disappear entirely sounds like downright sorcery. Because it is – we don’t have that ability (yet). But back in 2018, scientists accidentally hit on a way to make almost-impossible to recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics reduce back down into their original chemicals, thereby allowing them to be (possibly, and at very long last) turned into something else once they’ve run their course in the original formation. It’s not quite a disappearing act but it’s close.

Coral Vita

Coral Vita
via coralvito.co

With coral reefs all over the world experiencing mass die-offs, as The New York Times reports, our oceans and all the things that live in them are in greater peril than ever. So the fact that a Bahamanian company has hit on a way to grow coral on “farms” and use it to revitalise existing reefs is good news. Not as good as if we as a world community worked immediately and concertedly to stop the effects of climate change and meet the UN’s COP21 Paris Agreement goals – but better than the alternative of no coral reefs left at all.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the 14 breathtaking places you should aim to visit before it disappears.

Mycoremediation

Mycoremediation
Shutterstock

We do a terrible job of keeping oil spills from contaminating our oceans. And we do a pretty terrible job of mopping up the sludge once it’s floating on the surface, menacing wildlife for kilometres and for years. But as Vice reports, teams of mycologists have been working separately and sometimes in tandem to use mushrooms – or rather, the mycelia that are usually the underground, main part of the fungal organism – to clean up oil spills. Researchers report that these efforts show great promise; will we see more mushroom-related clean-ups in the future?

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