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How a new invention will prevent plastic from entering the ocean

In partnership with Avalon Waterways

Monday, April 6th 2020, 4:59 am - The amount of new plastic in our oceans is growing by 8 million pieces daily, but a new invention could prevent anymore from passing through.

The ocean is Mother Earth’s heart. We rely on it to feed us, regulate climate and absorb carbon dioxide. Rivers weave through the continents like arteries replenishing the sea with essential nutrients and water. Together, they are the planet’s life support system, but our dependency on plastic has pulled the plug. Every year, humans dump tonnes of plastic into the ocean and the rivers that feed it. There are now more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris polluting these essential waters.

This means there is likely more plastic swimming in the ocean than fish. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, has grown to around 1.6 million square kilometres. Everything’s bigger in Texas? Not this time, this swirling garbage patch is bigger than the state. But, floating plastic represents 1% of what’s actually in the ocean. The rest sinks to its depths.

GETTY: Ocean plastic Courtesy: Getty Images

The amount of new plastic in our oceans is growing by 8 million pieces daily, tipping the scales at a weight of up to 12.7 million tonnes a year. It’s time for the oceans to lose weight and get heart healthy. That’s where Dutch inventor Boyan Slat steps in. He has a diet plan for the world’s oceans.

Ocean CleanUp Courtesy of Globus and The Ocean Cleanup

In 1891, Thomas Robins, Jr. started work on an invention for Thomas Edison’s Edison Ore-Milling Company. It was a conveyor belt that would carry coal from the deep within a mine. A little over a century later, technological advances have made it possible to create plastic from this dirty fuel source. But, in 2013, Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup and cleverly took a conveyor belt and integrated it into a new invention that would pull plastic from rivers and prevent it from entering the world’s oceans. Slat called it, “The Interceptor”.

The Interceptor looks like a catamaran-style ferry bookended with two long floaters. But, instead of a cargo of cars and passengers, dumpsters ride this ship. The machine is positioned strategically upstream from the ocean. A long barrier allows other vessels to pass while it guides water flow to the Interceptor where plastic drifts onto a solar-powered conveyor belt. This is the ocean’s treadmill where the plastic takes a short ride into one of the dumpsters. The Interceptor can hold a hefty 50 cubic meters of plastic. When it’s almost full, it sends a text message to nearby operators notifying them to haul away and empty the dumpsters. The collected plastic is processed, recycled and denied an ocean getaway.

Ocean cleanup - gateway Courtesy of Globus and The Ocean Cleanup

For the planet to be heart-healthy, it starts by cleaning its arteries – the rivers. The Ocean Cleanup’s research has found that 1,000 rivers are responsible for about 80% of the ocean’s pollution. Currently, two Interceptors are operating with a goal to roll out Interceptors to a thousand rivers by 2025. This is just the first step. To rid the ocean plastic, we also have to do our part to close the new plastic tap. This is made possible with the help of sponsors such as Avalon Waterways. Avalon’s river cruise ships have set a standard and are committed to the environment and sustainability. In 2020, their motor coaches and ships will be free of single-use plastic products.

Avalon Waterways is one of many partners with The Ocean Cleanup, but we are all capable of playing a role. Follow their lead and think twice before purchasing single-use plastic products such as water bottles, straws, bags and cutlery. It’s only then that one day, Interceptors can be pulled from our rivers and placed where they belong – in a museum to remind us of our plastic dependent past.

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