By El Español.

State of the art projects aimed at reducing the amount of waste in the ocean emerges as a consequence of the troubling state of our seas.

Did you know that there are at least five islands made up of garbage in the world’s oceans? Two of these embarrassing islands are located in the Pacific, while another two are in the Atlantic, and another is in the Indian Ocean. Also, there are 150 million tons of waste in the sea’s currents and this number increases annually due to about 8 million tons of plastic that are dumped to the sea every year, Greenpeace has said. Different organizations warn us about the state of the ocean, which withers and dies from a lack of awareness of its dire condition, and inform us that, if the situation worsens, then by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish.

The only positive now is that there is increasingly awareness about the environment. A poll carried out in 2017 by the Sociological Investigations Centre (CIS) stated that 76% of Spanish people are interested in news related to the environment. “Sea in Blue”, promoted by the Ecomar Foundation and Santander Bank, focuses on caring for our coasts and other projects aimed at improving the state of the ocean.

Innovative solutions for big problems

To combat this troubling situation new cleaning methods have been created based on innovative ideas.

Meant to put an end to the presence of waste in the oceans is the Spanish company OC-Tech (Ocean Cleaner Technology S.L.), which has been developed with this goal in mind. Pepín Carballo patented a low draft catamaran (which allows closer movement to the coast) to collect waste, polluting discharges and microalgae.

The boat comes equipped with an innovative cleaning and storage system. Its technology is based on a current in the rear area of the boat which separates solid waste in order to be stored later in polyethylene deposits. Due to its versatility the boat not only works in the ocean, but in rivers, ports or rocky areas near the coast.

At an international level, Boyan Slat, a young man from Holland developed in 2013 technology that extracts plastic across the open sea and wipes islands of waste off the map. On October 3rd the boat departed, transporting all the infrastructure to an island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean with an estimated area of 700,000 square kilometers. The cleaning method relies on a flotation cylinder shaped like a “U” (stabilized with a floating anchor) and an enormous structure underneath the surface of the sea in order to capture solid waste. The trawl net drifts freely but is expected to concentrate the largest amount of waste in a Pacific to a central point where the support vessels can gather the plastic waste and bring it to land.

Another example of sea-friendly innovation are surfers Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski. Their passion for the sea motivated them to understand why and how “the most appreciated treasure found in nature” suffers from so much pollution. They wondered if the wastebaskets we see in city streets could be placed in the seas. They created Seabin, a type of mesh bag inside the sea to filter out and capture waste. It captures up to two millimeter-sized plastics with a capacity to store up to 20 kilograms of waste.

The Seabin wastebasket is developed to be installed in a wharf, where waste accumulates easily due to wind and tide. In a year, every wastebasket can store up to 90,000 bags, 35,700 plastic cups, 16,500 bottles and 166,500 utensils such as plastic dishes and cutlery, according to project data.

These ideas show that actions carried out both in the middle of the oceans and along its coasts work together to achieve a common goal: cleaning the oceans. The tasks of cleaning the surface are key to tackling the problem of the waste along the coasts. Volunteers who help clean beaches increase the number of cleaning tasks being carried out.

Ecomar Foundation and Santander Bank

“Sea in Blue” is an initiative by the Ecomar Foundation and Santander Bank. The first being a non-profit organization founded in 1999 by Olympic winner Theresa Zabell in order to raise awareness about caring for our planet. The organization wanted to show this cooperation by first conducting cleaning tasks along the coasts of Pontevedra and with the effort of volunteers, the cleaning process will be repeated in other areas of Spain.

The first working day was carried out on the Island Cortegada (Vilagarcía de Arousa), where 27 volunteers took away 117 kilograms of waste. During another session at Ladeira beach (Bayona), more than 50 volunteers took away 148 kilograms. Also, the effort has helped to clean up other areas, such as Doñinos (Ferrol), where 175 kilograms of waste were removed.

These solutions both large scale (like The Ocean Cleanup project) and smaller local scale (like the cleaning operation on Galician beaches) are aimed at fighting the consequences of ocean pollution and raising awareness: every person who takes care of the environment plays an essential role in paving the way for achieving this goal. Even small changes can kick-start the beginning of real improvement.