The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
How Best to Rid the World's Oceans of Plastic?
The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch foundation aiming to eliminate ocean plastic, unveiled Thursday a major design update to its highly vaunted cleanup system and announced that the technology will be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the first half of 2018, two years ahead of schedule.
Boyan Slat, the 22-year-old founder and CEO of the nonprofit, said at a presentation in the Netherlands that a "technological breakthrough" has allowed the project to be cheaper and more effective than originally anticipated.
According to Fast Company, instead of the initial estimates of removing 42 percent of the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over 10 years at a cost of $320 million, the young inventor hopes to remove 50 percent of total trash within five years at a cost "significantly less" than $320 million.
The original design involved massive floating barriers fixed to the seabed that passively corrals plastics with wind and ocean currents.
But the new design involves "a fleet of many smaller systems" that will not be attached to the seabed, Slat said. The AFP reports that each of up to 30 smaller barriers will measure about one to two-kilometers in length.
The updated system will be weighed down by specially designed drifting sea anchors.
"Rather than fixing the floating screens to the seabed at great depths, The Ocean Cleanup will apply sea anchors to ensure the floating screens move slower than the plastic," the team explained in a news release. "Rather than one massive barrier, the improved, modular cleanup system consists of a fleet of screens."
Slat said that the first system is already in production in California.
Earlier this month, the Ocean Cleanup announced that it raised $21.7 million in donations since last November, bringing the startup's total funding since 2013 to $31.5 million.
"At The Ocean Cleanup we are always looking for ways to make the cleanup faster, better and cheaper. Today is another important day in moving in that direction," Slat commented. "The cleanup of the world's oceans is just around the corner."
While large-scale trials will be initiated in the Pacific Ocean later this year, Slat noted that the cleanup technology is still experimental in nature.
"Due to our attitude of 'testing to learn' until the technology is proven, I am confident that—with our expert partners—we will succeed in our mission," he said.
Six years ago, a then-17-year-old Slat inspired many and made headlines around the world with his ambitious vision of ridding the world's oceans of plastic pollution.
Marcus Eriksen, research director and co-founder of The 5 Gyres Institute, explained to EcoWatch that the best way to solve the world's ocean plastic problem is to prevent trash from getting there in the first place.
"If you pay attention to the conversations that are being had around the world, it's all about solving the problem far ashore where it starts," Eriksen said via email. "No one is really talking about ocean cleanup. Amazingly, the ocean spits out much of what goes in. Consider that much less than 1 percent of the estimated plastic that historically entered the ocean is still there. In the ocean plastic UV degrades, shreds, sinks or gets washed ashore. It doesn't stick around in the gyres forever."
"If you're going to clean up the ocean, you've got to follow the currents to know where to go, and the published science on where to find trash tells us to stick to the shore, or at river mouths," he said. "But that's not as sexy a story as giving the world a silver bullet fix that will make the problem simply go away."
Eriksen added that there are far simpler and cheaper ocean cleanup programs that are already in place.
"There is some logic to limited ocean cleanup, and the best bang for your buck is to incentivize the fishing industry to grab the old nets and rope they see floating around," he said. "These 'Fishing for Litter' campaigns are already in place and working well."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Climate change is having a grizzly effect on Mount Everest as melting snow and glaciers reveal some of the bodies of climbers who died trying to scale the world's highest peak.
The Navajo Nation have decided to stop pursuing the acquisition of a beleaguered coal-fired power plant in Arizona, locking in the plant to be taken offline and its associated coal mine to close later this year.
A Navajo Nation Council committee voted 11-9 last week to stop pursuing the purchase of the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station, which with the Kayenta coal mine provides more than 800 jobs to primarily Navajo and Hopi workers as well as tribal royalties.
A coalition of utilities that own the plant said in 2017 it would cease operations due to increased economic pressure, and the plant's future has proved a flash point for national and regional energy policy and raised larger questions on how Native communities will handle ties to fossil fuel industries as the economy changes.
For a deeper dive:
By Jeff Turrentine
Is it just us?
Other countries don't seem to have a problem getting their high-speed rail systems on track. This superfast, fuel-efficient form of mass transit is wildly popular throughout Asia and the European Union. Japan's sleek Shinkansen line, the busiest high-speed rail system in the world, carries an estimated 420,000 riders every weekday. In China, the new Fuxing Hao bullet train now hurries more than 100 million passengers a year between Beijing and Shanghai at a top speed of 218 miles an hour, allowing its riders to make the trip of 775 miles — roughly the distance from New York City to Chicago — in about four and a half hours. Spain, Germany and France together have more than 4,500 miles of track dedicated to high-speed rail, over which more than 150 million passengers travel annually.
By Coda Christopherson (11) and Lea Eiders (15)
Growing up in a plastic-free home, I was sheltered from the plastic waste crisis. I (Coda) went to a very progressive school that had vegan lunch items, farm animals and ran on solar power. My mom produces zero-waste events and my dad is a sailor, so we're very passionate about the ocean. When I was nine years old, we moved back to Manhattan Beach, California and I started 3rd grade in a public school. This was the first time I really understood that plastic-free living is not the norm; single-use plastics were everywhere, especially in the cafeteria. Once I recognized this problem, I knew I had to make a difference.
Henry Avocado issued the recall Saturday after a routine government inspection at its California packing facility turned up positive test results for the bacteria on "environmental samples," the company said in a statement. No illnesses have been reported.
Oil executives gathered for a conference laughed about their "unprecedented" access to Trump administration officials, according to a recording obtained by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
In the recording, taken at a June 2017 meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) at a Ritz-Carlton in Southern California, members expressed excitement about one official in particular: David Bernhardt, who had been nominated that April to be deputy secretary at the Department of Interior (DOI). Bernhardt would be confirmed the following month.
"We know him very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues," IPAA political director Dan Naatz said in the recording.