How to trap garbage in the ocean

Ocean Cleanup’s passive giant floating barrier system uses natural ocean currents to collect and concentrate plastic. Under the 600-meter-long barrier is a three-meter-deep skirt to prevent debris escaping. (TheOceanCleanup)
Updated 04 October 2018

How to trap garbage in the ocean

  • The system consists of a 600-meter-long floating barrier that sits at the surface of the water with a three-meter-deep skirt below
  • The buoyant floating barrier prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath

DUBAI: With more than five trillion pieces of plastic polluting the planet’s oceans and five massive garbage patches floating in different corners of the world, people in the region and around the world are coming up with creative new ways to tackle the problem.

The Ocean Cleanup, headquartered in the Netherlands, has one that involves giant floating barriers. Founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat at the age of 18 in his hometown of Delft, his team now consists of more than 70 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers producing advanced technology to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. 

The system consists of a 600-meter-long floating barrier that sits at the surface of the water with a three-meter-deep skirt below. The buoyant floating barrier prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath.

“The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive system, using the natural oceanic forces to catch and concentrate the plastic,” said a spokesperson at the company. “Both the plastic and system are carried by the current. Wind and waves propel only the system, as the floater sits just above the water surface, while the plastic is primarily just beneath it.”

As the system moves faster than the plastic, it allows the debris to be captured. “Our models indicate that a full-scale system roll-out could clean up 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years,” he added.

Removing garbage from the world's vast oceans is a daunting task. (Shutterstock photo)

Research shows the majority of plastic is currently in larger debris. By removing the plastic while it is still large, The Ocean Cleanup prevents it from breaking into dangerous microplastics. The first system was deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on Sept. 8. The company expects to reach full-scale cleanup in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2020. 

At the end of last year, Dubai-based Ecocoast teamed up with The Ocean Cleanup to design and manufacture the screen for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) ocean cleanup. 

“We were the first to develop a successful screen for The Ocean Cleanup,” said Lachlan Jackson, Ecocoast’s founder and managing director. “Our research and development and engineering expertise informed the development of this groundbreaking screen. Cleaning up our marine environment is a multifaceted and complex issue that needs to be approached from a number of angles.” 

Jackson said marine pollution is not just caused by plastic and packaging waste, but through a range of coastal development activities such as construction and industrial activities. 

“We provide pioneering solutions that protect and support our marine environment, to reduce the impact from coastal and marine activities, construction, land reclamation works and other developments,” he said. 

“Our solutions cover every stage of the coastal development cycle, from development and infrastructure through to operation and maintenance, in order to avoid detrimental ecological impacts.”

From silt curtains and containment booms to sand-filled geosynthetic containers, the company uses a number of materials to protect the marine environment against the impact of coastal development. “We are the largest manufacturer of silt curtains in the world, which are used to protect the marine environment during marine construction and coastal reclamation works,” Jackson said. “In Dubai alone, the coastline has grown by over 6 percent since 2009 because of dredging and reclamation, making the use of marine protection barriers a very important part of protecting our oceans.”

With its latest launch, Ecocoast is tackling the problem at source. WasteShark intercepts plastic, rubbish, algae and other floating debris before it enters the ocean. The small catamaran-like boat collects plastic, rubbish, algae and other debris to tackle marine pollution in lakes, ponds, canals and more heavily trafficked environments, such as marinas, ports and coastlines. The waste and data collection vehicle can collect up to 350 kilograms, or 180 liters, of rubbish. Once full, it will carry the rubbish to shore, where it can be recycled.

Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today, as millions of tons of plastic permeate the oceans, damaging ecosystems and corrupting the food chain. The actions of UV radiation, waves and marine life result in big debris breaking down into much more dangerous small particles. 

Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, founder of the Ocean Cleanup. (Shutterstock photo)

Experts in the region have been calling for plastic pollution to be tackled from multiple angles. “The waters in the Middle East represent the global issue of marine debris,” said Natalie Banks, manager at Azraq, a marine conservation organization in the UAE taking its name from the Arabic for blue. 

“We find single-use plastic such as cigarette butts and food and beverage packaging in the top 10 items collected, as they are globally. To overcome this issue, we require a global and collective approach combining industry, governments and individuals all seeking to reduce single-use plastic items.”

Plastic has had a detrimental impact on the region. The UAE had 26.2 million tons of plastic in 2016 and 13 billion plastic bags are used in the country each year, more than 350 bags every second.

According to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi in 2014, discarded plastic bags were believed to be the cause of 50 percent of camel deaths in the Emirates each year, and it was estimated this year that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in oceans annually.

Azraq uses its volunteers and partners with corporates and schools to regularly undertake coastal cleanups. “Our method includes an awareness presentation and the use of burlap and reusable gloves to reduce the amount of single-use plastic used,” Banks said. “We then sort where possible the marine debris in order to recycle and repurpose what we can. We have found that this is the most effective way to undertake a coastal cleanup without creating additional single-use plastic and to maximize recycling opportunities, while also providing an educative experience to create a change in behavior.”

She said beach cleanups were only part of the solution. “We also need to make different choices to stem the tide of plastics entering the marine environment.”

In Dubai the coastline has grown by more than 6 percent since 2009 because of dredging and reclamation. (Shutterstock photo)


UK's Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 2 min 47 sec ago

UK's Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.