Clear Sailing: The Ocean Cleanup

07 September 2018      4 mins

Underwater shot of lots of plastic waste in clear blue water

UK’s Recycle Week is just around the corner and this year it’s focusing on plastics. With only 9% of the world’s plastic being recycled and the equivalent to a full garbage truck being dumped into the ocean every minute, Kevan O’Neill looks to see what The Ocean Cleanup are doing to tackle the growing issue of plastic debris in our oceans.

According to The Ocean Cleanup organisation, there are around 1.8 trillion pieces (150 million metric tons) of plastic located on the surface of the Great Pacific Garbage patch located between Hawaii and California. Rubbish accumulates in 5 ocean garbage patches with the largest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. With packaging accounting for over 40 per cent of plastic usage and with estimates of there being more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050 (according to Ocean Conservancy), understanding the impact of plastic in our oceans is crucial to being part of the solution.

The Environmental Impact

The Independent has reported that world is currently producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic each year (50% of which is used once and thrown away with no ability to be absorbed back into the environment), of which a significant amount will end up in our oceans. According to Marine Insight, the threat from plastics ruining the oceanic domain is one of the most dangerous threats to the marine environment. Plastics in the ocean, if left to circulate, will impact our ecosystems, health and economies. Plastics in the ocean can:

  • Jeopardise the natural ambience of marine life-disrupting the bio-geo cycle
  • Impacts over 700 ocean species (according to The Independent)
  • Plastics affects 60 per cent of all seabird species (according to Ocean Conservancy)
  • Plastics affects 100 per cent of sea turtle species (according to Ocean Conservancy)

According to a Belgian Microplastics Study, Britons who consume fish are at risk of consuming around 11,000 fragments of plastics each year. Plastic debris consumed by wildlife are eventually also consumed by humans.

Brighter Futures: The Ocean Cleanup

In response to recent extensive media coverage on plastics in our oceans, many consumers and organisations have started cutting down their plastic usage or reusing plastic items in a bid to reduce the environmental impact. But some are going a step further.

The Ocean Cleanup organisation launch their beta cleanup system, System 001, on 8th September 2018 with the aim of cleaning up 90% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 2040.

Consisting of a 600 meter long and 3 meter deep skirt, ‘U shaped’ unit, the system will gather up the plastics and be periodically ‘emptied’ by support vessels. With plans to launch up to 60 more fleets in the next year or two, this is a strong step in right direction for the marine environment.

How Can You Do Your Part?

With the entire removal of plastics from our oceans a distant future, small steps and little changes can make a big difference on the current environmental impact.

  • Switching to reusable bags when shopping over using plastic bags
  • Negating the use of straws - large pub companies have already started to move towards using biodegradable straws over the traditional plastic straw
  • Stop chewing gum - Green Education points out that gum is a synthetic rubber, aka plastic
  • Resist using ‘on the go products’ - often they use one time use plastics such as bottles of pop or pot of noodles or rice
  • Buy boxed products over plastic packaged products
  • Know the proper way to recycle plastics

As reported by The Independent, there is a knowledge gap in how to properly recycle common plastics resulting in many plastics being discarded in correctly and thus not being recycled.

Find out more about how plastics are recycled and how to properly recycle your plastics with Recycle Now.

Lucion’s Environmental Initiative

As a producer of waste, Lucion Services (parent company to Lucion Marine) recognises its responsibilities to maximise the amount of waste material that is recycled and to minimise the amount that goes to landfill, whilst ensuring legal compliance. Some of the steps we have taken as a company (and its sub divisions) include:

  • Ensuring all controlled wastes and notifiable hazardous wastes are managed in accordance with legal requirements and Lucion Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Recycling all waste paper and only purchasing recycled paper for office use.
  • ‘Ban the Bin’ scheme implemented at all major office locations to pre-sort recyclable materials prior to collection.
  • Actively striving to reduce the amount of waste produced by using recyclable materials.
  • Ensuring that waste storage at all Lucion locations complies with relevant legal requirements.
  • Taking steps to maintain staff awareness of the need for effective and efficient waste management.
  • Working with all central contract suppliers to ensure we don’t unknowingly use materials that are not sustainably sourced and which are not capable of re-use or recycling.
  • Promoting paperless work practices through our own and our client’s activities

We aim to set new environmental improvement targets annually and to monitor and review our progress on existing environmental initiatives in view of continually improving our environmental performance.

Food For Thought

The ocean is big and impacts every being on earth. Cleaning up the ocean is half the battle. We need to make strides in actively using less plastic. Prevention has to be a priority in order to achieve a sustainable future.

Further Reading

The Ocean Cleanup: https://www.theoceancleanup.com/about/

UK Recycle Week, Plastics Focus: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/recycle-week-2018

Independent Plastic In Oceans Article: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/plastic-bad-environment-why-ocean-pollution-how-much-single-use-facts-recycling-a8309311.html

Marine Insight’s How Is Plastic Ruining Our Ocean?: https://www.marineinsight.com/environment/how-is-plastic-ruining-the-ocean/

Microplastics In Bivalves Cultured For Human Consumption: http://www.ecotox.ugent.be/microplastics-bivalves-cultured-human-consumption

The Ocean Cleanup System 001: https://www.theoceancleanup.com/technology/

Green Education - Tips To Stop Using Plastic: http://www.greeneducationfoundation.org/nationalgreenweeksub/waste-reduction-tips/tips-to-use-less-plastic.html

Recycle Now: https: //www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/how-is-it-recycled/plastics

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