[First posted on Sep 2018, see updates below]
That is a huge number and it is only five trillion, if you count the five big gyres around the world. If you consider entirety of the oceans, it is estimated to be 15 Trillion+! We are used to the convenience of single use plastics but haven’t developed systems to manage its life-cycle and now it is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year. These ocean plastics endanger marine life, as they ingest or get caught in them. Not only that, they get broken down (with sun, natural forces and over time) in to smaller/micro plastic sizes, which marine life forms will consume them thinking of food and eventually they will end up in human food chain!
The biggest of five gyres is called, Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). It is between California and Hawaii and is roughly, 1.16 million square kilometers, twice size of Texas. It is estimated there are nearly 1.8 Trillion pieces of plastic in GPGP.
If this rate of accumulation continues, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. This plastic epidemic has to be stopped- at the source (of entering) and we need to clean up the plastics that are already in the ocean.
Cutting of at the source includes: lesser single use, waste management, recycling and some form of better filtering system at all of the water entry points. Huge problem with infinite sub problems to work on, will post as and when I find a specific one,
In regards to clean up of current plastics in the ocean, we are still in luck, as most (90%+) of plastic is big enough to fish it out! In 2013, Boyan Slat, came up with an idea of system (big net) that is driven by ocean currents & solar. The Ocean Cleanup Project, was crowdfunded and after trials, ‘System 001’, think of it as beta, was launched in September 2018 in Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Good luck to Boylan and his team.
Good luck to all the Pieneers! As always, know of anyone or any startup working on this, please let me know, I will update this post.
Update (Jan 5,2019)- on Ocean Cleanup Project- two issues were found in System-001, 1) some plastics were leaking out of the net 2) a section of the system broke apart. Based on the their record and talents, I am sure they can figure out how to fix these. But this highlights, the need for more ideas and talents working on this problem until all of our oceans are plastics free!
Update (July 28, 2022)- Ocean Cleanup Project is moving to System 03. Now that the technology is validated the new 03 system aims to scale and efficiency. Check out the site for more amazing details.
[Image Credit: Thanks to bilyjan via Pixabay]