Fourteen billion pounds of garbage, 90 percent of which is plastic, is dumped into the ocean every year and there is no sign of plastic waste reducing – in fact plastic waste has been increasing about 10% each year for the past 20 years.
In the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden, dumping untreated sewage and Industrial waste directly into the sea is unfortunately an extensive practice, but an additional recent threat is the increasing number of landfill sites located near the coast which are resulting in considerable plastic pollution near coasts and coral reefs. One solution, the Marine Drone Elie Ahovi Industrial Design, could clean up our waste.
In response to a question by Veolia Environmental Services on how to collect plastic from the sea, a team of innovative industrial designers propose a Marine Drone (pictured above) capable of capturing drifting plastic.
The drone is basically a propelled oversized pool net with special sensors that keep aquatic animals away and high-powered batteries that allows it to stay in the water for more than 2 weeks. Not much has been discussed regarding how much plastic each drone would be able to collect, the costs involved and whether the drone is capable of capturing the insidious nurdles which are the greatest problem.
Ten percent of all plastic ends up in the ocean, and has resulted in the largest landfill in the world: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is estimated to be twice the size of France. The Mediterranean is not spared from floating plastic garbage islands. Seventy percent of this ever-accumulating plastic sinks to the sea floor. In 2006, The United Nations Environment Program estimated that every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic and in some areas, the amount of plastic outweighs the amount of plankton by a ratio of six to one.
Americans buy over 29 million bottles of water every year, this uses 17 million barrels of crude oil annually, which would be enough fuel to keep 1 million cars on the road for one year. Only 13% of those bottles are recycled. The United Arab Emirates has the world’s largest per-capita ecological footprint; it currently consumes 25% of global plastic bags.
Aside from being a quantitative disaster in our sea, plastic has terrible properties. Once in the ocean there is no way plastic can completely biodegrade. Instead, plastic photodegrades breaking into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic called mermaid tears or nurdles. These tiny plastic particles can get sucked up by filter feeders and are ingested by marine animals which can poison them and lead to death. Nurdles also tend to soak up toxic chemicals which result in biomagnification a process whereby persistent organic pollutants and concentration of toxins increase as we move up trophic levels.
But if this prospective Marine Drone project is eventually engineered who would pay to clean up the sea? The sea is a public good and water pollution is the result of several countries dumping so my question is: Are there the right incentives for countries in the Middle East to decide to invest in such ideas and maintain the common sea clean?