Ocean trash is a catch-all term for all human-made debris in the ocean through various channels. Plastic makes up approximately 90% of the trash found in the ocean, and the substantial volumes of garbage adversely impact marine life and ecosystems. Tens of million tons of garbage and other contaminants enter the ocean each year. 

What is the source of this pollution?  

Some of the garbage is swept up on our beaches by the waves and tides. Some trash sinks, while others are consumed by marine animals who mistake it for food, and still others amass in ocean gyres. Other types of pollution that impact ocean health originate from oil spills or the aggregation of many scattered sources, such as fertilizer from our yards.

Exactly how much is the ocean trash?

These numbers are referred to by scientists as the “wow factor” of ocean garbage. The tallies published in three independent scientific articles are valuable in alerting the public to the scale of the problem. 

But, aside from the shock factor, how does adding up those rice-sized plastic fragments help address the problem?

  • The ocean is perhaps our planet’s least explored area, with many undiscovered animals and mysteries. According to research undertaken over the last few decades, this spectacular habitat is seriously threatened by human meddling, with plastics expected to outnumber fish by 2050.

Our rubbish has been discovered in every area of our ocean, from distant shorelines to Arctic ice and even the deepest regions of the seafloor.

What exactly is marine pollution?

Ocean Today claims that the top five items found in global coastal cleanups are all single-use plastics. They are:

  • Plastic cigarette butts
  • Food wrappers, 
  • Plastic beverage bottles, 
  • Plastic bottle caps, plastic straws 
  • Drink stirrers are among them.

Ocean Pollution: Types

Marine pollution is classified into five types:

  • Ocean acidification: The oceans that blanket our world behaves like a carbon dioxide sponge, absorbing it as it enters our atmosphere. This has the positive impact of mitigating global warming by lowering CO2 concentrations in our waters. The issue is that CO2 levels are too high, and the volume absorbed by the water is affecting pH levels. This is particularly destructive since it alters the entire ecosystem; sensitive habitats such as coral, which is home to 25% of all marine life, suffer.
  • Plastic Debris: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans, and this plastic garbage poses a severe threat to all marine life. Fish, turtles, and seabirds eat microplastics mistaken for food after being entangled in discarded fishing nets. Every year, millions of animals die due to their use of these items. Furthermore, many of these species that consume plastics are part of our food chain, so our waste also ends up poisoning humans.
  • Eutrophication: Eutrophication is the process through which the chemical nutrient concentration in a body of water increases. This can stimulate plant growth or, more frequently than not, in the case of pollution, promote mass decomposition, lowering oxygen levels in the water. As a result, ‘dead zones’ form where oxygen levels are so low that marine life cannot survive.
  • Noise: Seismic surveys, oil exploration, sonar, and mass freight ships can all cause a lot of noise generated in the oceans. Many marine species rely on their sense of hearing for survival; for example, whale stranding has been connected to disorientation caused by the Navy’s sonar.
  • Toxins: Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT), heavy metals, pesticides, phenols, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), and others are examples of persistent toxins. What are the consequences of toxic pollution in the sea? They do not decompose in our waters. These chemicals penetrate the bodies of all forms of marine life in the food chain, eventually causing disease and death. Of course, as the apex predator in this food chain, we are also absorbing these biomagnified toxins from our food.

Statistics on Ocean Pollution

  • According to the National Geographic Society, the ocean contains 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris. 269,000 tons of that mass float on the surface, while the deep sea is littered with four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer.
  • Scientists believe that the 5.25 trillion figure represents only a tiny portion of the plastic that enters the oceans each year. What happens to the rest of it is a mystery.
  • A recent survey on ocean pollution found the garbage more than 2,000-4000m deep.
  • According to research, our oceans contain anything from 15 to 51 trillion floating microplastic particles weighing between 205 and 520 million pounds. Plastic microbeads (used as exfoliants in some personal care items) and synthetic fibers are examples. Both are too small to be filtered out by most wastewater treatment plants.
  • Carbon emissions hurt both the waters and the atmosphere. If we keep doing what we’re doing, the ocean’s surface water could become 150 percent more acidic than it is now.
  • Plastic has been discovered at 36,000 feet (about 11 kilometers) in the Mariana Trench, indicating that even the world’s deepest oceans are not immune to contamination.
  1. 5.25 Trillion pieces of plastics
  2. 269,000 Tons
  3. 200-4000m deep garbage
  4. 500 Dead Zones
  5. 363762732605 Pounds
  6. 36000 ft deep plastic trash in the Mariana Trench

Plastic Pollution In The Ocean

  • According to Roland Geyer and his team, the world produced just 2 million tonnes of waste plastics in 1950. Annual production has nearly doubled, reaching 381 million tonnes in 2015. The 2008 global financial crisis primarily caused a sharp decline in annual production in 2009 and 2010.
  • To put this in context, this is roughly the mass of two-thirds of the world’s population. The graph depicts the rise in global plastic production from 1950 to 2015
cumulative plastic waste generation and disposal
cumulative plastic waste generation and disposal | Image Credit – Research Gate

Cumulative plastic waste generation and disposal (in a million metric tons) | Solid lines show historical data from 1950 to 2015; dashed lines show projections of historical trends to 2050| Source: Geyer et al.(2017)

  • OWID report suggests that by 2015, the world had already produced 7.8 billion tonnes of plastic, which is more than one tonne for every person alive today.

How has the global method of disposing of plastic waste evolved? 

  • A Research paper shows that before 1980, there was little recycling and incineration of plastic, so it was all discarded. Rates of incineration and recycling increased by about 0.7 percent per year on average between 1980 and 1990.
Methods of plastic waste disposal
Methods of plastic waste disposal | Image Credit – Science Advances

Plastic Disposal Methods | Reference: Geyer et al. (2017)

  • In 2015, estimates showed that 55% of global plastic waste was discarded, 25% was incinerated, and 20% was recycled.
  • If we extrapolate the historical trends to 2050, incineration rates will rise to 50% by 2050, recycling rates will rise to 44%, and discarded waste will fall to 6%. However, this is based on simple extrapolating historical patterns and does not portray concrete projections.

Source: Production, Use, and Fate of all plastics ever made | ROLAND GEYER JENNA R. JAMBECKAND KARA LAVENDER LAW

Where does our plastic assemble in the ocean, and what does that mean for the future?

  • Every year, the world generates over 380 million tonnes of plastic, which may become pollutants in our natural surroundings and oceans.
  • Not all plastic waste ends up in the ocean; the majority are disposed of in landfills. It is estimated that around 3% of global plastic waste ends up in the ocean.
Route of Plastics into the ocean
Route of Plastics into the ocean | Image Credit – Our World in Data
  • There were approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic waste in the ocean in 2010. Since most of the plastic substances we make are less dense than water, they float at the ocean’s surface. According to reports, over 5 trillion plastic particles weighing more than 250,000 tons are floating at sea.

In the figure, we outline global plastic production to its final fate over the period 1950 to 2015.

This is given in cumulative million tonnes.

  • The cumulative production of synthetic fibers, polymers, and additives was 8300 million tonnes;
  • 2500 million tonnes (30%) of primary plastics were still in until 2015;
  • 4600 million tonnes (55%) went straight to landfills or were discarded;
  • 700 million tonnes (8 percent) were incinerated;
  • 500 million tonnes (6 percent) were recycled (100 million tonnes of recycled plastic were still in use; 100 million tonnes were later incinerated, and 300 million tonnes were later sent to landfills or discarded).
  • Of the 5800 million tonnes of plastic not in use, only 9 percent has been recycled since 1950.

Ocean Gyres

A massive system of circular ocean currents caused by global wind patterns and forces created by Earth’s rotation is known as an ocean gyre.

The “ocean conveyor belt” is propelled by the movement of the world’s major ocean gyres. The ocean conveyor belt transports ocean water all around the world. The ocean conveyor belt, also known as thermohaline circulation, is critical for regulating temperature, salinity, and nutrient transport across the ocean.

The Formation of a Gyre

The circulation of a gyre is caused by three factors: global wind patterns, Earth’s rotation, and Earth’s landmasses. Wind drags on the ocean’s surface, forcing water to flow in the wind’s direction. These wind-driven currents are deflected or shifted due to Earth’s rotation. 

  • The Coriolis effect causes this deviation. Surface currents are shifted by around 45 degrees due to the Coriolis effect. Ocean currents in the Northern Hemisphere are diverted to the right, clockwise. Ocean currents in the Southern Hemisphere are pushed to the left counterclockwise.
  • The Coriolis effect produces an Ekman spiral beneath the surface currents of the gyre. While surface currents are deflected by around 45 degrees, each deeper layer of the water column is deflected by a smaller amount. As a result, a spiral pattern descends approximately 100 meters (330 feet).
  • Ocean gyres are also influenced by the continents and other landmasses (such as islands). For example, the vast South Pacific Gyre encompasses hundreds of kilometers of open water. Only the continents of Australia and South America and the Equator and the fierce Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) separate it from the rest of the world.

Types

Five gyres have a considerable impact on the ocean. 

  1. The North Atlantic Gyre
  2. South Atlantic Gyre
  3. North Pacific Gyre
  4. South Pacific Gyre
  5. Indian Ocean Gyre 

The big five assist in the operation of the so-called oceanic conveyor belt, which aids in the circulation of ocean waters worldwide. While they cycle ocean waters, they also collect marine debris, which is pollution that we discharge in coastal areas.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) of North Pacific Gyre is the most famous illustration of a gyre’s propensity to take out our rubbish. The patch is an area where there is a lot of marine trash (mainly plastic). While this is undoubtedly the most well-known garbage patch, it is far from the only one in the ocean. 

Researchers have uncovered two additional regions where a “soup” of concentrated marine debris got collected in the last five years, one in the South Pacific Ocean and the other in the North Atlantic. Plastic can circulate for years in this section of the ocean, similar to the North Pacific Garbage Patch, providing health dangers to marine animals, fish, and seabirds.

How huge is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a massive accumulation of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Litter that wraps up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water is referred to as marine debris.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), also renowned as the Pacific trash vortex, extends from North America’s West Coast to Japan. The patch comprises two parts: the Western Garbage Patch, near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, between the US states of Hawaii and California.

  • A study predicted that at least 79 (45-129) thousand tonnes of ocean plastic are floating within a 1.6 million square kilometer area. The same study suggests that more than three-quarters of the GPGP mass is carried by debris larger than 5 cm in diameter, with fishing nets accounting for 46 percent. Microplastics made up 8% of the total mass but 94% of the estimated 1.8 (1.1-3.6) trillion pieces floating in the area.
  • The paper indicates that ocean plastic debris within the GPGP is growing exponentially faster than previously thought.
  • It is estimated that 80 percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from land-based sources and the remaining 20 percent from boats and other marine sources. These percentages, however, differ by region. 
  • According to a 2018 study, synthetic fishing nets made up nearly half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch mass, which was caused primarily by ocean current dynamics and elevated fishing activity in the Pacific Ocean.
  • The GPGP is not the only marine garbage vortex; it is the largest. Trash vortexes are found in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Sometimes shipping routes in relatively small water bodies, like the North Sea, are clogged with garbage.
  • Because the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is so far from any country’s coastline, no country will take responsibility for cleaning it up or providing the fund. The vortex’s discoverer, Charles Moore, claims that cleaning up the garbage patch would “bankrupt any country” that attempted it.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has received much attention, but it is not the only gyre where plastic piles up. Five distinct gyres shape ocean currents and create predictable final destinations for plastic.
  • According to OWID, the distribution of the approximately 297 million tons of plastic floating in 2013 on the ocean’s surface was as follows:
  • The North Pacific Ocean (36 percent)
  • The Indian Ocean (22 percent)
  • The North Atlantic (21 percent)
  • The South Pacific (8 percent)
  • The South Atlantic Ocean (4.5 percent)
  • The remaining 8.5% remained in the Mediterranean Sea.
  1. Charles Moore, an oceanographer and boat captain, discovered it.
  2. It is roughly three times larger than France.
  3. Fishing nets are responsible for approximately 45 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
  4. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is just one of five patches like it.
  5. Between 1.1 and 3.6 trillion pieces of plastic are found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
  6. Plastic exists not only on the surface of the patch but also beneath it. Plastic will account for roughly 74% of the sea turtles’ diet that enter the area.

Where does the majority of the pollution in the ocean come from?

  • Most marine debris is carried to the ocean by just ten rivers. About 8 million tons of plastic and synthetic material enter our oceans each year. Dr. Christian Schmidt and his group set out to figure out how it gets there as a section of a critical task of determining the underlying cause of marine pollution through their entry points.
  • Over the last decade, scientists have spent a significant amount of time analyzing the waste in the water surrounding the 57 river systems that flow into the oceans. After analyzing the river and adjacent landscape, they determined that ten rivers are the hosts of 90 percent of the plastics dumped into the oceans.
  • Only 10 rivers are enough to contribute 90 percent of global ocean debris. Eight in Asia: Amur, Indus, Pearl, Yangtze, Yellow, Ganges, Hai He, Mekong. Two in Africa: Niger and the Nile.
  • According to a recent scientific study by Dr. Christian Schmidt and his team, roughly 90% of the plastic in the ocean tends to come from the world’s ten rivers. They estimated by evaluating waste quantities for every cubic meter and comparing them to the other 57 in their study. These ten had the highest concentrations of plastic:
  1. Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) (1.5 million tons): The Yangtze is Asia’s longest river. This Chinese river flows to the Yellow Sea’s southern end, connecting to the Pacific Ocean.
  1. Indus River(160,000 tons): This river flows from Pakistan into the Indian Ocean.
  1. The Yellow River (Huang He) (120,000 tons): The second-longest river in China flows from the Yellow Sea to the Pacific.
  1. Hai He (92,000 tons): Hai He is a river system in northern China that empties into the Bohai Sea.
  1. The Nile (85,000 tons): The Nile is the world’s longest river, flowing through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
  1. Meghna, Brahmaputra, and Ganges rivers (73,000 tons): The Ganges river basin empties into the Bay of Bengal, eventually reaching the Indian Ocean.
  1. Pearl River (Zhujiang) (53,000 tons): The Pearl River runs through China and ends in the South China Sea.
  1. Amur’s (38,000 tons): The Amur River forms part of the Russian-Chinese border and flows into the Sea of Okhotsk.
  1. Nigeria (35,000 tons): The Niger River flows through West Africa to the Gulf of Guinea on Nigeria’s coast.
  1. Mekong River (33,000 tons): The Mekong River winds its way through Southeast Asia, passing through Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia before emptying into the South China Sea.

Which countries are the most responsible for marine pollution?

  • A new academic study on which countries release most and least plastics into the ocean was published in April 2021. As it turns out, Asia is responsible for 81 percent of the world’s ocean trash. This is primarily due to plastic waste in rivers that flow into the sea. 
  • The Philippines alone is responsible for 36.4 percent of the world’s plastic ocean debris, with India accounting for 12.9 percent. In fact, less than 1000 rivers, predominantly in Asia, are responsible for more than 80% of the ocean’s plastic. Only 0.2 percent of the ocean’s plastic debris comes from the United States. This report is based on a new study published in April 2021 that looked at which countries were the most guilty of plastic ocean waste. According to the study, countries with poorly managed plastic waste and rivers that empty into oceans were determined to be the primary sources of plastic pollution in the oceans. 

The interaction of these two factors determines whether or not a country contributes plastic to the oceans.

Let’s start by looking at how each continent contributes to ocean plastic waste. The graph below shows the estimated weight of ocean plastic originating from each continent:

ContinentPlastic Waste disposal into the ocean (%)
Asia81.00%
Africa8.00%
South America5.50%
North America4.50%
Europe0.60%
Oceania0.40%

Table showing the waste disposal (%) by every continent | Data Source: Meijer et al.

Pie Chart showing the waste disposal (%) by every continent
Pie Chart showing the waste disposal (%) by every continent | Image Credit – Meijer et al.

According to recent research by packaging business RAJA, the top plastic producers worldwide are as follows.

  • In 2020, India was the worst country for plastic trash in the oceans, dumping 126.5 million kilograms of plastic per year.
  • India spilled enough plastic rubbish to equal the weight of nearly 250 thousand bottlenose dolphins, one of the most prevalent dolphin species in the ocean.
  • Even though the United States produces twice as much plastic waste as India (42 billion kg) each year, just 2.4 million kg of it finds up in our oceans. This could be because the United States is known for exporting waste to nations with poor waste management systems, such as India or Africa, and countries with effective waste management systems.
  • The plastic was sent to countries with good trash management, such as Canada, South Korea, and Taiwan. However, more significant amounts of trash were exported to nations with weak waste management systems, such as Malaysia, Thailand, and India, which received 19%, 10%, and 12% of US waste.

When big countries, such as the United States, transport their plastic garbage overseas, they can claim that it has been recycled. This satisfies industrialized countries’ commitment to making a more substantial positive impact on the environment. The top five plastic trash dumpers collectively dump 314 million kg of plastic into the ocean each year. So, who are the top ten contenders?

CWIM claims these countries as the top 10 plastic dumpers. 

  • The UK – 703 thousand kg 
  • Japan – 1.8 million kg 
  • The USA– 2.4 million kg 
  • Egypt – 2.5 million kg 
  • Mexico – 3.5 million kg 
  • Thailand – 22.8 million kg 
  • Brazil – 38 million kg 
  • Indonesia – 56.3 million kg 
  • China – 70.7 million kg 
  • India – 126.5 million kg 
Tacked Bar Chart showing the top 10 countries to dump plastic waste in the ocean in 2021
Tacked Bar Chart showing the top 10 countries to dump plastic waste in the ocean in 2021 | Image Credit – CWIN

How many marine animals are killed each year due to pollution and plastic?

The poisonous effects of plastic are wreaking havoc on our ocean and the many animals who call it home. The gray whale that was stranded in Seattle in 2010 with more than 20 plastic bags, a golf ball, and other trash in its stomach, to the harbor seal pup, found dead on the Scottish island of Skye, its intestines fouled by a small piece of the plastic wrapper, are just a few examples.

  • CBD report suggests that over 817 animal species are affected by ocean pollution worldwide, a number that has climbed by 23% in only the previous five years.
  • According to the United Nations, marine debris impacts at least 800 species globally, with plastic accounting for up to 80% of the waste. Every minute, up to 13 million metric tons of plastic is projected to wind up in the ocean, the equivalent of a trash or garbage truckload.
  • A new study suggests that marine turtles that ingest just 14 bits of plastic have a higher risk of dying. Young people are particularly vulnerable because they are less picky about what they eat than their elders and, like plastic, tend to float with currents.
  • Scientists concluded in a recent study that corals that come into contact with plastic have an 89 percent probability of developing the disease, compared to a 4 percent chance for corals that do not. Scientists forecast that by 2050, the amount of ocean plastics will exceed the total weight of all fish in the seas unless immediate action is taken to solve this critical issue.
  • UNESCO Facts & Figures on Marine Pollution states plastic waste in the ocean kills around 1 hundred thousand marine species per year, including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles, and birds. There is an estimated 100 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans. Another 60 billion pounds is predicted to be produced this year alone.
  • Future Agenda claims that plastic has been discovered to obstruct the digestive tracts of at least 267 different species so far.
  • Ocean Crusaders say about one million marine birds die due to pollution in the ocean every year.
  • An overview of the “Impact of Plastic on Coral reefs” stated that Plastic increases the odds of disease on a coral reef by 22 times. A massive examination of the 159 coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region in 2018 revealed that over 11.1 billion plastic particles are entangled in the corals, with this figure expected to rise by 40% by 2025. Plastic waste may also cause physical harm to corals by depleting the resources available for wound repair. The coral reef ecosystem is home to around 7000 different species of fish, invertebrates, plants, sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals. 
  • According to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Microplastics are consumed by many creatures at the bottom of the food chain. These creatures are then eaten by animals other than humans. 

What are the future predictions?

  • The complete estimate comes from a new WWF-commissioned evaluation of over 2,590 studies. This is based on estimates that plastic output will quadruple by 2040, culminating in a quadrupling of plastic trash in the ocean by 2050.
  • Vancouver Sun reports that by 2050, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight).
  • According to a new study, systemic improvements in our relationship with plastic might result in an 82 percent decrease in plastic leakage by 2040, costing roughly $600 billion. It remains to be seen if governments and companies embrace and execute these changes.
  • According to an assessment report of the UN Environment Programme report released on Thursday, plastic pollution in oceans and other bodies of water is increasing rapidly and might more than quadruple by 2030. 
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IEAE) report reveals, Compared to 2008 levels, the amount of microplastics in the region is anticipated to grow by 3.9 times by 2030. Unless action is made to modify this trajectory, this number might nearly double again by 2050, rising by 6.4 times from 2008 levels. By 2100, the quantity of plastics in the ocean is anticipated to be more than ten times higher than in 2008.

What are the consequences of ocean pollution for humans?

Oceans cover Over 70% of the Earth’s surface. Despite their immense expanse, the seas are in danger, owing primarily to human activities, according to the conclusions, which are based on 584 scientific papers and include:

  • Plastics, poisonous metals, synthetic chemicals, pesticides, sewage, and agricultural runoff pollute the oceans and kill and poison the fish that feed 3 billion people.
  • Coastal pollution spreads illnesses that can be fatal.
  • Oil spills and chemical pollution threaten the sea microorganisms that produce a large portion of the world’s oxygen supply.

The document on Human Health and Ocean Pollution, created with the help of the Monaco Science Centre and Boston College, demonstrates that ocean contamination is not unavoidable.

The following comprises some of the significant findings:

  • Mercury contamination has grown prevalent in the oceans, accumulating to high levels in predator fish, and posing recognized threats to newborns, children, and people once they enter the food chain.
  • Coal is the most common source of mercury pollution, with its pollutants vaporizing into the air and eventually washing into the oceans when it burns.
  • Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) have become more common along the coasts due to pollution from industrial waste, agricultural runoff, pesticides, and human sewage, which produce toxins linked to dementia, amnesia, and neurological impairment, and instantaneous death.

Efforts made to Prevention

The Ocean Cleanup is a Dutch-based non-profit engineering environmental group that creates technologies to remove plastic garbage from the oceans and intercept it in rivers before it reaches the sea. After early testing and prototyping in the North Sea, they placed their first full-scale prototype in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

After two months, it developed problems and was hauled to Hawaii for inspection and repair. They implemented their second prototype system in June 2019. They also implemented the Interceptor, their river technology, in two places in 2019, announced the project publicly in October 2019, and plan to deploy another in 2020. They announced in 2021 that the prototype testing of System 002 had gone well. 

System 001

Plastic trash, microplastics, and ghost nets from the gyres, often known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, are targeted by System 001, a 62-mile-long barrier. This revolutionary design, created by Boyan Slat, CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, cleans up 80,000 tons of waste between Hawaii and California.

This machine has a slow-moving design that collects ocean plastic and garbage by flowing with the currents. The collected plastic is removed after the container is full. Since its inception, scientists and professionals have continuously monitored System 001 to ensure that no marine species have been harmed. The idea is to protect the environment by catching the plastic before it breaks down into microplastics.

Seabin V5

The Seabin Project’s Seabin V5 is designed to collect floating rubbish in regions with calm water, such as marinas and harbors. This vacuum-like design, made of recyclable materials, pumps water into the filter bag inside the gadget. The waste is trapped inside the water and pumped back into the surrounding region. This device can capture toxic plastic and trash and absorb dangerous oils from the water.

Seabin V5 can remove 44 pounds of trash each day and 1.4 tons per year. Sealife is sparse in Seabins because they are located near marinas with high pollution levels. Scientists have been developing a bag material that effectively collects even the tiniest plastics from the environment.

The team is constantly adjusting to new approaches to develop this material so that macroplastics, microfibre materials, and oil and fuel contaminants can be removed from the oceans.

Mr. Trash Wheel

Mr. Trash Wheel is an ingenious water wheel designed by Clearwater Mills, LLC that gathers trash in rivers, streams, and harbors and converts it to power. It can pick up 38,000 pounds of trash each day and has kept 1.6 million pounds of rubbish out of the ocean!

The goal of this technology is to collect garbage and oil slicks. The trash is moved into a floating barge via a conveyor belt driven by solar panels. The rubbish is transformed into electricity once it reaches the barge. Any animal that comes close to the machine has plenty of time to move out of harm’s path due to its slow mobility.

WasteShark

RanMarine Technology invented WasteShark in 2018, with a design inspired by the whale shark. WasteShark is a water drone that collects trash before it is carried out to sea by winds, tides, and currents. It floats on the water’s surface and collects floating trash such as plastic and bio-waste.

Its technology allows you to plan a route ahead of time to guarantee that it covers the most dangerous places. It can also be controlled by manual steering, much like any other drone. WasteShark also can read and relay information about water quality, such as pH levels and salinity.

FRED

Floating Robot Eliminating Debris (FRED) is a prototype created by the San Diego non-profit organization Clear Blue Sea in collaboration with student interns from multiple San Diego universities. This device, which is expected to be completed in 2023, vacuums and collects dangerous trash from the ocean’s surface using renewable energy. Large debris can be collected by the device’s front flaps and transported to a collecting bin via a conveyer belt. FRED’s modest speed and built-in sensors keep aquatic animals at bay during the collection.

Magnetic Coils

According to a study undertaken by professor Xiaoguang Duag, Nanotechnology could be a solution to our plastic problem. Magnetic coils developed by Duag and a team of scientists will be used to break down microplastics via a chemical process. The nitrogen and manganese coatings on these tiny magnetic coils cause a chemical reaction with oxygen molecules. Microplastics can be broken down in this reaction, resulting in environmentally benign salt compounds, carbon dioxide, and water.

This technology is currently being evaluated, but it is expected to remove 100% of microplastics from harbors and marinas. Toxicity tests conducted in this study revealed that the degraded microplastics are not detrimental to marine life and can even serve as a carbon source for algae development.

Knowledge Gaps

  • There is a necessity to define and develop global environmental standards and universally applicable metrics. More research is needed to understand the dynamics of Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBT) substances in connection to microplastics in the marine environment.
  • The amount of plastic ending up in the oceans is still largely unknown, and ways to quantify and reduce that intake are yet to be developed.
  • We can perform a global evaluation of microplastics incorporated with current initiatives like the United Nations Assessment and the Transboundary Waters Assessment Program (TWAP). All required to connect to these current projects is a set of established techniques.
  • To connect to these existing projects, all that is needed is a set of standardized methodologies. The sample methods created by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could be an excellent tool.
  • The knowledge of microplastics in the marine environment is currently relatively sparse. We don’t know how much it makes it to the oceans or behaves once there, both in ocean movement and degradation, fragmentation, and property modification due to weathering.
  • Furthermore, little is known about how microplastics convey pollutants and plastic pieces’ physical and chemical consequences on the environment.
  • There is also a need for an assessment to follow up on United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP)’s work, compile all available scientific data and provide suggestions to the many policy, industry, and social organizations with responsibilities in this area. This evaluation should consider the more significant issue of marine debris and solid waste management.

Conclusion

Ocean pollution is a global issue. It comes from various places and crosses national borders due to irresponsible, shortsighted, and unsustainable resource extraction, jeopardizing marine habitats. It obstructs the formation of oxygen in the atmosphere. 

Its dangers to human health are numerous and expanding, yet they are still little understood. Its economic costs are only now being tallied. Like all other types of pollution, we can avoid ocean pollution by implementing data-driven strategies based on law, policy, technology, and enforcement targeting the most severe pollution sources.

Many countries have employed these technologies to combat air and water pollution, and they are now turning their attention to ocean contamination. The success rate achieved so far shows that more control is possible.

Polluted harbors have been cleaned, estuaries have been revitalized, and coral reefs have been rebuilt. There are numerous advantages to preventing ocean pollution. It stimulates the economy, encourages tourism, aids in the restoration of fisheries, and improves human health and well-being. Additionally, it contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). These advantages will last millennia.

Suraksha Pal is an Industrial Engineer currently pursuing my master’s degree in Renewable Energy Engineering at the Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus. She has a keen interest in Renewable Energy and is passionate about sustainable development. She loves to express her views on these subjects through articles and blogs.