Plastic pollution of our oceans is on on-going problem.
People who love the sea usually pride themselves on being good stewards of the environment, and luxury yacht owners are no exception. In fact, when it comes to protecting the environment, yacht owners like to lead by example, finding the right balance of enjoying all yachting has to offer, while still minimizing their yacht’s impact on the environment. One way to do that is to make sure to always properly dispose of your boating waste and recycle whenever possible.
And yet, despite the best efforts of many, garbage and in particular plastics, continues to have a serious negative impact on our oceans.
Have you heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch?” Ocean currents concentrate plastic in five areas in the world, known as “ocean garbage patches”. Once in these patches, the plastic will not go away by itself, it just accumulates and continues to pose an ongoing threat to the oceans and the entire ecosystem. The largest of these, which is located between Hawaii and California, is known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is TWICE the size of Texas!
Here are a few things every responsible yacht owner needs to know about plastic pollution.
- Plastic pollution is happening on a global scale – It is estimated that 8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean from coastal communities every year. That’s enough to fill 15 carrier bags for every meter of coastline on the planet. As a result, plastic litter has been found in marine environments across the globe.
- Plastic kills marine life – Marine animals can become entangled in plastic litter, such as lost fishing nets, causing injury and in many cases death.A recent study has found that nearly 700 marine species have encountered plastic debris, of which 17% are listed as near threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN red list. A staggering 90% of seabirds are now thought to have ingested plastic.
- Economic Impacts – As if the damage to sea life and the marine enlivenment were not reasons for concern enough, plastic pollution is also damaging to the world’s economies. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimated that the global cost of plastic pollution on the marine ecosystem, including financial losses to fisheries and tourism, was approximately $13 billion.
Pacific Garbage Patch Map – NOAA
Can We Get the Garbage Out of Our Oceans?
For years scientists have tried to come up with ways to safely break up the patch, with few good answers. The patches, particularly the Great Pacific Patch, are so vast, trying to haul the garbage away by boats, or contain it using conventional nets, have all proved impractical.
However, an aptly named company from the Netherlands known as Ocean Cleanup, will soon deploy a technology that could really make a difference.
The Great Pacific Patch is not a solid mass. It is a swirl of debris in constant motion.
The idea proposed by Oceans Cleanup, is to use the same circulating currents that bring the trash to the Patch and keep it swirling in a constantly spinning gyre, to capture the debris and plastic, and break up the patch.
Boyan Slat, is the young engineer and entrepreneur behind this ambitious strategy. Slat was a teenager in the Netherlands in 2013 when he first proposed a technological solution to the problem of plastic pollution. “I realized this plastic is actually moving around, it doesn’t stay in one spot. So why would you go after the plastic when the plastic can come to you?” says Slat. “So we came up with this passive system that uses very long floating screens, floating around to concentrate the plastic like an artificial coastline.”
The technology has been dubbed the Ocean Cleanup, and the company recently announced it will be deployed in 2018. The system uses U-shaped screens that channel floating plastic to a central point. The concentrated plastic can then be extracted and shipped to shore for recycling into durable products. According to Slat, Ocean Cleanup will start extracting plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the next 12 months, and thanks to a new and improved design, he expects they will be able to clean up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.
Slat’s original prototype consisted of a giant passive barrier that was anchored to the sea floor. The improved, modular clean-up system consists of a fleet of floating screens. Thanks to a generous grant that the company received in May of 2017, the development team was able to accelerate production, deployment of the system, and the actual extraction of plastic from the ocean.
Testing of the first system will begin off the coast of San Francisco by the end of 2017, followed by deployment into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the first half of 2018, two years ahead of schedule!
Recycling Onboard Your Boat
Until such advanced technologies as the Ocean Cleanup can be deployed, and even after they are, it is incumbent that we as responsible yacht owners all do our part, through proper onboard waste management, and recycling.
Improperly disposed of, or unrecycled trash from boats, can easily end up becoming marine debris. Marine debris is any man-made item that ends up as trash in our oceans, lakes; or inland waterways. Marine debris isn’t just ugly, it is a major environmental threat. Debris from marine waste sickens and kills marine animals and birds. It also has a serious negative impact on local economies that rely on tourism and fisheries. While it is true that nearly 80% of the trash that ends up as dangerous marine debris, comes from land, as dedicated stewards of the environment, boaters need to do their part to stem the tide!
Of course, just as on land, paper, cans and bottles, can and should all be recycled when they are ready to be disposed of on your yacht. But, there are also many other marine specific products, that you may not use on land, that can also be recycled, helping to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills and ensuring proper disposal of potentially hazardous materials. Monofilament fishing line for example, is very hazardous to fish and marine life and should be recycled. Check the warning labels of any marine cleaning products or supplies for how they should be properly disposed of or recycled.
If you love the sea, you must enjoy it responsibly!
Operating a motor yacht can be costly. You can reduce your expenses, and avoid costly repairs by keeping her well maintained. On Demand yachting from FYM can help. If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Yacht Management specialists, or call us at (954) 900-9968.
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