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No solution: Floating garbage collectors

According to a recent study, floating barriers are said to contribute little to cleaning the oceans.

Initiatives such as the Dutch non-profit organization "The Ocean Cleanup" collect plastic waste with an interception device from the water surface. According to a study by researchers of the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research in Bremen, which appeared in the journal "Science of the Total Environment", such measures are useful, but not a way to actually clean the oceans. For example, the devices would not be able to detect microplastics, nor would they be able to fish the plastic parts that have sunk to the ocean floor out of the water. According to the study, in which the researchers used mathematical models to investigate how the maritime garbage chutes would affect pollution, they could only capture a fraction of the waste. In a scenario in which 200 such collectors would be on the move in the oceans, collecting plastic waste to be later recycled or incinerated on land, the scientists calculated that in a period of 130 years only slightly more than five percent of the total amount of plastic waste estimated at 399,000 tons worldwide could be removed from the surface of the oceans. They also fear that technologies such as the floating garbage chutes could provide justification for further pollution of the oceans. The researchers also point out that the collected waste, which consists of very different materials and can often be overgrown with microorganisms, is difficult to recycle. The effort for sorting would therefore be very high. According to the study, the only remedy would be to reduce the discharge of plastic waste into the oceans.


Sources:

  • spiegel.de (24.8.2020)
  • wissenschaft.de (26.8.2020)
  • Photo: ©The Ocean Cleanup