Solutions to plastic pollution in the ocean

As I mentioned in my previous post, the scale of plastic pollution has now reached unprecedented levels. We now can identify some of the issues with plastic and microplastic. Simply, microplastic is a danger to aquatic life, human life and water filtration systems. One of the largest problems with microplastic is the abundance of it found in our oceans and our rivers. For example, the Great Pacific garbage patch demonstrates the amount of plastic and other waste which has accumulating in our oceans.

This already being common knowledge amongst environmental researchers and activists, some have already started cleaning the oceans in an effort to repair what we have damaged and help spread awareness of the problem.

The Ocean CleanUp is a non-profit organisation which aims to clean up 90% of plastic pollution from the ocean. They use different technologies to help rid our oceans of plastic pollution and have also started helping in river systems as well. One of their technologies is a U-shaped foam like barrier which traps plastic ready for it to be collected and recycled.

Ichthion is a technological company which specialises in delivering the first scalable solution to reducing plastic from our waterways. They are working towards building energy-generative systems that can be installed in rivers, coastal areas and oceans.

https://thegreatbubblebarrier.com/en/

The Great Bubble Barrier is a company which uses a current of bubbles in the water to prevent plastic from moving forward and trapping the waste. This is already an existing technology used to prevent oil spills from spreading and does not hinder fish or ships.

In summary, these are just a few examples of the different ways organisations are solving plastic pollution in our oceans and rivers. There are many more companies associated with these organisations and others which are doing similar work. With this movement where everyone takes responsibility for the planet and does not see it as someone else’s problem, a sustainable future will be all the more likely.

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How much waste do we produce?

During the 20th century where technological innovation was progressing faster at an unprecedented rate, the world witnessed a surge in commodities which helped life become more simple. However, now we understand that consumerism is one of the biggest problems which causes climate change. For example, in 2016 the UK generated approximately 41.1 million tonnes of commercial and industrial (C&I) waste. This is more alarming when looking at the scale of waste globally and the ways waste is produced.

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One way modern society produces so much waste is through fast fashion. The fashion industry greatly impacts the planet by the ways that textiles are made and the by-products which pollute the environment. It is stated that every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. Fast fashion is also a humanitarian crisis as well, with textiles workers often forced to work long hours with little pay. This is an industry which is large in scale but also present large problems to us and the environment.

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Another way we produce so much waste is through the food industry. It is estimated that one-third of all food produced goes to waste. We not only waste food but also the energy and water used to make the food produced. As the global population continues to grow unprecedentedly, we need to figure out ways to feed people more sustainably.

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Finally, another way waste is produced is through the by-product of toxic waste caused by numerous activities such as manufacturing, farming and construction etc. It is estimated that in 2020 we have produced 355 million tonnes of toxic waste worldwide. Fortunately, toxic waste is more regulated than it once was but we still have large corporations and government dumping toxic waste illegally in the ocean or in developing countries. For example, Sir Lanka recently returned toxic waste which was imported to their country by the UK. Demonstrating the lack of international cooperation and consideration taken with the waste produced in developed countries.

In summary, we are living in a time of advance technological innovation but also a time where we produce the most waste without real thought or consideration for what this is doing to us and our planet. If we could spend more time looking toward sustainable solutions to the problems that we ourselves create and less time on industries such as fast fashion, maybe a healthier future may be all the more plausible.

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The forefront of climate change research

Disclaimer: I am in no way sponsored or endorsed by any of these organisations, I am just trying to spread the awareness of information on climate change.

Recent research on climate change taken from credible sources outline what current research is focused on. Some studies I have already written about in my previous posts so they will not be included within this thread. The aim of this is to give people an idea of what direction climate change research is currently heading:

Side note: an interesting podcast mini-series from the University of Oxford on climate change and its research models, economic consequences and the issues surrounding the solutions. A great listen if you do not have the time to read.

Hopefully this helps broaden the awareness on current climate change issues and at the very least provides informative sources for you to refer to when needed.

Contribution is key

Inspired by a recent YouTube video, which I shall link below, I went on a cycling trip to try and help clean up my community.

I decided to load my bike with black rubbish bags and head off to see what I could find.

Living in a city, seeing litter has become somewhat normalised to a degree. As I started to look for it I began to realise it was everywhere. I travelled down a lane which leads to an old WW2 airfield. However, I didn’t make it 10 metres before my bags were full, I wasn’t even able to fit one of them back into the bag on the bike.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the amount of rubbish I would encounter. I spent approximately 40 minutes picking up all the little bits of rubbish. To just clear this lane would have taken days.

I proceeded to take the rubbish to some bins not too far from the lane. Altogether this only took around an hour and is a tiny step in the right direction. So next time you take a trip, it might be a good idea to pack a black rubbish bag and combined these small acts can eventually have a big impact.

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10 alternatives to everyday plastic

One of the most environmentally friendly ways to reduce the use of plastic is through biodegradable or compostable products. The distinguishing factor being that biodegradability consists of natural materials breaking down, whereas compostable items are a form of biodegradability that transforms organic waste which is more beneficial for the environment. In an effort to spread awareness, here are ten items that can help you avoid the use of plastic. (Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by any of these companies to endorse these products).

  1. Sandals made from algae

Scientists in California have manipulated natural organisms such as algae to create environmentally friendly footwear. Items such as sandals often wash up on coastlines and are mostly made of plastic and rubber which can damage the environment. This new alternative is one small step to helping the planet.

2. Banana leaf packaging

Supermarkets in Asia have started using banana leaves for packaging. This helps reduce plastic packaging and minimise the chances of plastic waste.

3. Plastic made from cactus

Mexican researcher, Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, has figured out a way to create plastic made from material extracted from cactus. Serving to be much more biodegradable than everyday plastic, it can degrade in just one month and only takes several days in water. Therefore, some useful items can retain the same durability as plastic without the negative consequences of damaging the environment.

4. Paper straws

Some businesses already use these and they are a great way to prevent using plastic by switching to a more biodegradable alternative.

5. Sea sponge

A shower sponge made from natural materials, making it biodegradable and environmentally friendly. A great alternative than sponges which use synthetic fibres and create more waste which damages the environment.

6. Ayate washcloth

A multi-purpose washcloth made from the agave plant which are easy drying. Another great alternative to washcloths made from synthetic fibres.

7. Compostable food packaging and cutlery

As people are slowly realising the harmful products which most people use everyday, a transition is emerging where more and more items are becoming biodegradable or compostable. Online you will find many items such as food packaging, cutlery and cups which are compostable and thus a healthy alternative to regular plastic items.

8. Compostable clear gloves

Clear gloves useful for many messy situations such as cooking or for those working in health care. Again, a healthy alternative to plastic gloves which are frequently used but damage the environment.

9. Biodegradable tampons

Specifically for the women (or men that want to buy their significant other a slightly weird gift) biodegradable tampons can be purchased online to help reduce the amount of plastic waste produced.

10. Bamboo products

Products made from bamboo such as sunglasses, toothbrushes and clothes can be found either online or in the shopping mall. This is a great way to avoid synthetic plastics and harmful waste by switching to a more environmentally friendly solution.

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