Confused malcontents swilling Chardonnay while awaiting the Zombie Apocalypse.
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It's a gyre, and things from bottles to derelict ships have been found there. But I doubt the American EPA would be interested - - until the last election they were more into creating problems than actually fixing them, and now they're too much in flux to do much of anything so far-sighted. It's something that actually needs to be addressed by an international coalition - - I'd hope one where it's agreed that the nations participating would be required to keep whatever debris they collected, and properly recycle it. Everything from Styrofoam blocks to soft-drink cans to floating bottles to sea containers to abandoned ships. Pie-in-the-sky? Probably, but the job needs to be done on an ongoing basis.
Actually, it would not surprise me if the commercial industry took over the problem.
They seem to be acting on the big issues instead of waiting for politicians to pull their finger out.
If a commercial enterprise could figure out a way to make money on the operation, I suspect we'd already see such activities. But at present I don't think anyone sees a profit from the effort. One would have to amortize the vessels, pay the crews, do the maintenance, pay the various kinds of insurance - - - then process the retrieved material that nobody thought worth the effort to put in the trash to begin with.
Please pardon me if I doubt this could be a profit-making venture!
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do the job.
The profit comes in saving the industry.
Think of it as an investment in the future.
Spending this money on a big cleanup once a year ensures more fish will be there next year, and the next, and the next.
Also, the fish will be of higher quality, and not full of plastic.
There is profit, just not immediate.
That's why I think it might be necessary to get international governmental cooperation and sponsorship for any such clean-up proposal.
Please note that I favor a genuine clean-up effort. I'm just not confident there are enough people willing and able to fund such an operation, which will be very large, for a considerable time will be continuous, and the benefits of which might not be immediately apparent. How to get through to the ordinary person that such an effort would be in everyone's best interest - especially if done in conjunction with efforts to curtail further plastic trash dumping into rivers and oceans - is something I can't figure out at this time.
But I do hope someone with the resources to do such an ongoing clean-up will step forward and take on the job!
It was the search for flight MH370 that bought this floating mass of garbage to the world's attention - or Australia's at least.
I had no idea it existed. I guess we think of the ocean as being so massive that it can take anything we throw at it - literally.
It will have to be an international effort sponsored by billionaires like Branson or Musk. But it is possible.
As for getting through to the ordinary person... Single use plastic bags are being completely phased out here, however all the food inside my cloth shopping bags is wrapped in single use plastic, which I definitely throw away.
Our recycling industry here is in a mess. People have been carefully sorting their rubbish believing they are helping the planet, only to recently discover that all the recyclable goods are stuck in storage or just going into landfill.
Then China stopped accepting the waste and the entire industry is now considered commercially unviable.
I think people, in general, care about the planet. I cannot possibly see any opposition to the big cleanup of the ocean. But when a government steps in, there will be people who say wait a minute, it's not all OUR mess! Why am I paying for this?
I think a good, strong image would be some close up pictures of big brand names. Like Coca Cola bottles or McDonald's wrappers. That could get some funding in.
But some companies are already doing things: https://common-good.co/6-brands-tackling-ocean-plastic-waste
And, as much as Dot will hate this, some governments will just have to enforce the recycling industry upon the commercial by taxing the hell out of the cheaper alternatives shipped in from overseas.
Kinda like Trump.
Well, there are some things that are, simply, commercially unviable. If in fact even China gave up on it, that's a strong indication that they weren't going about the job in the right way.
Unless I miss my guess, sorting the recyclables is the single most labor-intensive part of the process. Metals are mostly separable by machine, but organics including plastics are less amenable to those means at the present time. Eventually machinery will be developed that will be able to do the job better than humans, but for now it's a human-labor-intensive operation. Doesn't mean is shouldn't be done, just means it'll be expensive for the foreseeable future. Job still has to be done.
Maybe taxation of the contributors will be necessary.
As to your throwing away the one-time-use, non-recyclable plastic wrappers for foods, I think that contributes more to the waste stream than the single-use plastic grocery bags. I wonder if most of that is biodegradable - - if so, it won't do much damage to landfills, much as I dislike those necessary evils.
I wonder if sewage and organic waste could be processed to produce fuels - - - pie-in-the-sky idea just now, but maybe worth the attention of some truly bright boys and girls in University - - - - -
I guess it all comes down to our choices in the supermarket aisle.
If I'm choosing plastic, the ocean suffers, if I choose cardboard or paper, a tree dies, if I choose glass, my recycled glass will end up stuck in a giant storage shed or end up in landfill.
Also, I will now have to purchase bin liners - which is what I used the highly biodegradable plastic carry bags for.
I guess cardboard and paper is the best choice, as sustainable forests are common.
But sometimes I don't have a choice.
This is why I like to have the butcher cut or slice the meats I want, then wrap them in butcher paper. It's recyclable and biodegradable both, even though it's not quite as convenient for most people as those plastic-wrapped cuts of meat, fish or poultry.
And I use heavy cotton-canvas grocery bags, which I can throw in the laundry once every week or two, depending on what's happened to them from the foods I carried them home in.
Would the concept of waste become obsolete if our garbage had value?
Imagine if you could get paid for the things you put in your rubbish, and countries competed to import waste.
Waste is an environmental issue as well as a resource issue, and as Australia approaches 2050 and a population of 40 million, resources will be more valuable than ever.
Will we look back on single-use products as 21st century madness?
That depends on the policy decisions we put in place today, and whether we can transition to a circular economy.
The idea of countries importing and even competing for waste seems like a huge paradigm shift, but in some places it is already the norm.
It has been a decade since Sweden all but banned rubbish going to landfill. Now the Swedes claim to recycle as much as 98 per cent of their waste.
Half of that is turned back into materials such as plastics and aluminium for reuse, and the rest is used to feed sophisticated incineration systems that have been developed to provide electricity and heating to Swedish households.
The incinerators are strictly monitored to adhere to Sweden's rigid emissions standards, according to Ali Abbas from the University of Sydney (USyd).
"The incineration plants are in the middle of the cities. And they have no smell and no emissions," Professor Abbas said.
According to the 2016 Avfall Sverige (Swedish Waste Management) Report, the Swedes recovered three megawatt-hours of energy per tonne of waste burnt. That is enough to power about 900 Australian homes for an hour, according to the Clean Energy Authority.
While the average Australian sends more than one tonne of waste to landfill each year, the average Swedish household sends around three kilograms.
In 2015, Sweden imported 2.3 million tonnes of waste from Norway, the UK, Ireland and elsewhere to fuel its incinerators.
In short, it has created a system that is reliant on waste as a fuel source.
If Australia was to follow Sweden's lead, by 2050 we would be sending virtually no waste to landfill. We may even be mining landfill for fuel to feed our own incinerators.