Home Science & Technology Ocean cleaning devices can also trap marine organisms

Ocean cleaning devices can also trap marine organisms


every year, more than 14 million tons plastic pollutes the ocean and threatens the lives of various marine species. About 80 percent of all marine litter is made up of plastic, indicating the scale of global plastic pollution.

Boat builders, sailors and engineers have developed technological innovations such as Sibin or Mr. Trash Wheel minimize all types of trash floating in the ocean. These mechanical cleaning inventions are fixed-point devices designed to separate and remove marine debris from various bodies of water. They work by suctioning water from the surface and intercepting floating debris or lifting debris from the water onto a conveyor belt that collects it all in a dumpster.

However, they may be of limited benefit in reducing plastic pollution. Studies show that the devices can even capture unknown marine organisms, which is a problem because they threaten marine life.

The rate of garbage generation exceeds the rate of garbage collection

A recent Marine Pollution Bulletin research investigated a Seabin in the south west of the UK and found that it captures an average of 58 items of litter per day, mainly consisting of polystyrene balls, plastic balls and plastic fragments. The authors also found that the device caught one marine organism — such as sand eels, brown shrimp and crabs — for every 3.6 pieces of trash caught (or about 13 marine organisms per day), half of which were dead after retrieval.

Marine organisms may be attracted to the device for food or shelter. Their mortality rate also seemed to increase with time in the car. Some died from being caught, perhaps by the weight of the surrounding material, says Florence Parker-Georde, a study author and research fellow at the International Marine Debris Research Unit at the University of Plymouth in the UK.

“At the current stage of development, the research showed that in the environment studied, the amount or mass of debris removed by the device was minimal when considering the risk of bycatch,” says Parker-Jurd. She adds that manual cleanup efforts using pontoon nets are generally more efficient and less resource-intensive than Seabin in environments such as marinas, harbors and ports, even though it was designed to operate in those locations.

“Technological innovations have a role to play in reducing marine litter, particularly in coastal areas where they can complement existing cleanup efforts,” says Parker-Jurd. “This study has highlighted the need for robust formal evaluations of such devices, particularly given the increasing use and geographic distribution of Seabin and similar devices.”

[Related: A close look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch reveals a common culprit.]

Although the study formally evaluated only one device, similar issues may apply to other marine cleaning devices. Things like a lack of escape routes, long periods of work and time out of the water to separate marine life from organic matter and debris before returning to the water can contribute to entrapment of marine organisms, Parker-Jurd says. .

Moreover, the current potential of technological efforts to reduce plastic collection is limited compared to the problem of plastic pollution. “While there are no estimates of the total removal of plastic and other waste from these devices, there is near-unanimity among experts that the amount of waste collected pales in comparison to the amount of waste that ends up in the environment,” says Megan Dunphy- Delhi. , director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory Scientist Program. She did not participate in the study.

Not much scientific research has been done on the effectiveness of different technologies in removing plastic pollution from the environment or on their marine bycatch levels, but self-reported effectiveness is often higher than peer-reviewed effectiveness reports, Dunphy-Daley says. When it comes to the effectiveness of cleaning technologies beyond the pilot phases, weather, current directions, and location of the device must be considered.

Dutch non-profit organization Cleaning the ocean has recently been criticized for a pile of plastic garbage they cleaned up the Great Pacific Garbage, which some experts say was too clean for plastics that had been in water for years. Organization argued that there was no visible accumulation of algae and barnacles because the water in the garbage patch lacked nutrients. Most of the plastic floated on top of the water, but conservation experts also denied this.

“Further research should evaluate the types of marine life captured in these devices to determine population-level impacts and weigh the risks and benefits of using these cleanup technologies,” says Dunphy-Daley.

Technology must go hand in hand with reducing the production and use of plastic

Developing and implementing technologies to reduce waste is only part of the solution. When an oil spill occurs, you don’t just focus on removing the oil from the surface of the water – you stop the leak and clean it up, Dunphy-Daley says.

The leak has undoubtedly continued in the case of global plastic pollution. She adds that combating it requires an integrated approach that addresses all stages of the plastic life cycle, from reducing overall production to cleaning up what ends up in the environment.

However, the invention of cleaning devices effectively draws attention to the problem of marine litter. Last year, Coldplay partnership with The Ocean Cleanup and sponsored the Interceptor, a midshipman or vessel designed to remove plastic from rivers before it reaches the ocean.

[Related: Horrific blobs of ‘plastitar’ are gunking up Atlantic beaches.]

“Hopefully, by generating public interest with these technologies, we can also gain support to target other stages of plastic’s life cycle and reduce overall plastic pollution,” says Dunphy-Daley.

A Report for 2021 from the National Academies of Sciences, Technology, and Medicine argue that recycling processes and infrastructure are insufficient to manage the gross amount of plastic waste produced. The authors recommended several measures to reduce waste generation, such as establishing a national limit on the production of virgin plastic and banning certain single-use plastic products.

Mechanical devices for cleaning the sea can shape the perception of the problem of marine litter and potentially create dependence on technological solutions to environmental problems. Therefore, such interventions should continue, says Parker-Jurd. According to A 2022 year Societies paper, there is excessive optimism surrounding technology and scientific progress. Nevertheless, man-made problems of the planet cannot be solved only by modern and effective technologies.

Although the invention of cleaning devices is unlikely to completely remove human responsibility for waste and litter, evidence of their psychological effects is currently lacking and should be an important part of future research, Parker-Jurd says. She adds that “our main focus must remain on implementing systematic changes in the way we produce, use and dispose of plastic”.

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