07 May Morris Esformes Discusses The Ocean Cleanup and Effect on Climate Change
As a Miami native, the importance of our oceanic systems and their overall effect on global climate has been deeply instilled in me, therefore keeping our oceans clean of pollutants is of the utmost importance. One project I’m invested in is The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic, an issue that remains top-of-mind in today’s world. My first time raising money for The Ocean Cleanup was done for my birthday last year via Morris Esformes Facebook page. However, while we continue to make more advances in eliminating plastic usage, we’re still contributing billions of discarded plastics a year that eventually make their way into the ocean, impacting both climate and oceanic life in the process.
According to EarthDay.org, 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean each year, with 236,000 tons being broken down into microplastics that are then consumed by ocean life. Microplastics are the by-product of single-use plastics. Through varying weather systems and conditions, these single-use plastics are broken down into millions of microplastics that cannot be detected by the eye. Luckily, biodegradeable options to replace society’s use of single-use plastics are increasingly available as companies, such as BOXED WATER, seek to eliminate single-use plastics altogether.
A large amount of single-use plastics that are not recycled properly enter the ocean drift by way of streams, rivers and runoff, which lead into large ocean currents or gyres. Once the plastic reaches the gyre, it is at risk of damaging coral reefs, ocean life and creating an overall unstable environment and climate. The Ocean Cleanup works to not only clear the ocean of its plastics, but also create a stabilized environment for people and wildlife.
Ocean Cleanup – It All Started With An Idea
Founded in 2013 by 18-year-old Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup is a leading non-profit in designing and developing the first feasible method to rid the world’s oceans of its many plastics. The company, with its ambitious plans, is the only tech solution on the market that currently has a deployable system to clean the largest patch of floating garbage in the world, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The company has some large tech investors backing it, too. Currently, The Ocean Cleanup is backed by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, and Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.
With a $20 million system, Slat has designed and developed a system that consists of a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface with a 3-meter tapered skirt below. The bouying system works to stop plastics from flowing over while the skirt works to stop debris from flowing underneath. Its fleet of systems has been estimated to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.
Slat intends to utilize the plastics collected through his system to sell to B2C companies to create additional revenue that will help expand cleanup efforts in the other four gyres.
Technology that Eliminates Plastic and Safeguards Sea Life
While the systems main use is to eliminate the ocean’s plastic, Slat developed a system that would also safeguard oceanic life – a top priority for Slat and investors alike. On The Ocean Cleanup’s website, the non-profit states, “Protecting the natural environment is at the heart of what we do. It is the driver behind our efforts to remove large amounts of plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. Hence, safeguarding sea life has been the number one driver behind our technology.”
To protect these animals, the system takes advantage of natural weather systems, such as wind, waves and currents to trap plastics. The floating system is designed to capture plastics ranging from small pieces, just millimeters in size, up to large debris, including discarded fishing nets.
The Ocean Cleanup’s buoying systems are safe for marine life in four ways. First, the system moves through the ocean at a very low speed to allow sea life to swim away. Second, the screen is impenetrable and the current flows beneath the screen guiding organisms along the underside of the current. Third, the screen is not a net so sea life cannot become tangled or caught in any way. Last, the non-profit initiates a final check for marine life before extracting plastic from the ocean to ensure safety.
In addition, The Ocean Cleanup has conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) through an independent agency that did not detect any hazards of the system to the environment. Impacts on the environment are heavily valued when deploying any type of garbage removal system into a natural weather system, an implication that can have extreme effects as discussed in my recent blog “Morris Esformes Discusses How Climate Change Is Affecting the United States” via the Morris Esformes Blog at www.Morris-Esformes.com. The system is engineered to withstand natural forces and is designed to be limber to ocean waves and drift with high-speed currents in the case that any dangerous weather systems occur while deployed.
Plans For the Future
For the future, The Ocean Cleanup has some big goals. One is to be able to remove up to 90 percent of the ocean’s plastic by 2040. According to the nonprofit’s website it states, “After fleets of systems are deployed into every ocean gyre, combined with source reduction, The Ocean Cleanup projects to be able to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040.”
However, its first system, which was deployed in late 2018 for testing, is currently in for repairs after breaking during a natural weather cycle. Despite simulating conditions in a laboratory ahead of its initial deployment, the buoying system quickly broke during high-speed winds and waves off the coast of Hawaii.
While some may be discouraged by the system’s initial ocean trial, it’s still the only feasible system for collecting the upwards of 20 million tons of plastic that has accumulated over the years. It may be back to the drawing board for Slat and his team to develop a system that can better withstand the ocean’s natural elements, but the world’s best products have come from trial and error.