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Jam jars worth of plastic

26 maart 2010

With the Beagle currently ‘offline’ from the internet, a support team has been in touch through a satellite phone. The Beagle is making good progress traveling through the Indian Ocean in search of possible solutions to the plastic soup predicament.  Where is the plastic soup exactly, what is the plastic floating in the ocean and where is it coming from? The sense of urgency for action is clear. Whilst sailing, Haico and Arend had the manta trawl trailing alongside the vessel for roughly 3 hours, and they collected a jam jar worth of plastic with particles ranging in size from 1 mm to a few millimeters.

Approximately 20 people from Boskalis and Van Gansewinkel in the Netherlands are in regular contact with the team onboard of the Beagle to provide hands-on back-office support for any questions that arise from the Beagle. In addition, the support team also provides suggestions and new ideas for Haico and Arend.

A couple of specific questions raised :

  • Instead of focusing on removing plastic from the open ocean, could we set up a post-consumer program in the on- and near shore area. Could we set up a global program, including fundraising to establish beach cleaning, recycling systems, incentive schemes for fishermen to collect plastic and clean harbors and river estuaries?
  • To make such a system effective, we would also need to ascertain the source of the seaborne plastic to be able to target the source effectively. How can we determine the source of plastic which is only a couple of millimeters in size?
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One Comment leave one →
  1. 30 maart 2010 5:25 pm

    I would like to react on the second question raised. In my opinion, the question ‘How can we determine the source of the plastics which is only a couple of millimeters in size?’ is preceded by another question: ‘Is it worthwile to determine the source?’ I think, it is worthwile to determine the source of large (unbroken) pieces of plastics, but that is not worth it investigating the source of the smaller plastics. Main reason for this is the age of the plastics. The smaller pieces have been put away many years (30, 40, 50?) ago. When we would try to locate the source, it would take a lot of effort (compared to the large pieces, since large pieces are more recognizable) and the findings would be useless. ’40 years ago, this piece of plastic is discharged somewhere in a river in Europe.’ Only, when we would be able to determine it in more detail than my statement, we can use this knowledge to hold someone responsible for the dumping. But otherwise, I think it will be unlikely that practices and laws etc. haven’t changed in 40 years. So, you never will find a reliable pattern.

    Wouter

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