I started this crusade against marine litter in high school. Though I can’t say for sure what all culminated in this passion and fire within me, what I do know is that the trigger was the simple idea that there was no solution to a problem. That somehow science was inadequate.
I am ashamed to admit that I don’t know what the paper was called nor who the authors were. All I remember was that the conclusion basically said that combatting ocean trash, that cleaning up the oceans was impossible. I firmly believe that impossible does not belong in science. We might not know how to clean up the oceans, perhaps we don’t have the right technology, or we simply haven’t attacked from the right angle, but impossible? “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible,'”.
Boyan Slat of the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, started his journey about the same time I did. I remember reading about his dream of deploying some sort of machine into the North Pacific that would be able to siphon out plastic trash. Seemed like a cool idea. Then I remember reading a scathing article about how he was going to fail.
Granted, I am a skeptic of the technology, and it is true that there is not a real life working prototype from the project, and so far I haven’t seen anything that soothes my concerns about the impact deploying large floating machinery would have on wildlife (I am a biologist at heart after all), but at least somebody was trying. Somebody was looking at the problem from a different angle.
The problem of marine litter needs as many solutions as we can find, and it continues to upset me when review are discouraging, instead up supportive. So the project isn’t going to work. Instead of undermining the idea maybe skeptics could offer constructive ideas to help better the idea. Education, mitigation and legislation aren’t exactly the cure all either.
Plastic is here to stay. The way we manage them needs to change drastically, but there will always be plastic in the environment, and thus in the ocean. So is it to much to hope that there could be a way to remove it from our seas? Otherwise, with the fact that plastic never breaks down only breaks up, the plastic load of the ocean will only continue to increase indefinitely. Personally, I’m not ok with that.
Read more here
Learn more about the Ocean Cleanup Project here