r/Futurology ∞ transit umbra, lux permanet ☥ Sep 23 '22 Helpful 3 Wholesome 4 All-Seeing Upvote 1 Take My Energy 2 Wholesome Seal of Approval 1 Silver 3

A Dutch NGO that has cleaned up 1/1000th of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, says its technology can scale up to eliminate it completely. Environment

https://theoceancleanup.com/updates/first-100000-kg-removed-from-the-great-pacific-garbage-patch/
45.3k Upvotes

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859

u/pablo_the_bear Sep 23 '22

So just continually working with no end in sight until action is taken to stop flooding the ocean with plastics...

I applaud what they are doing but it makes me angry that they need to exist as a company in the first place.

217

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

I feel stopping it from getting there would be more effective. International treaties on fishing can mandate the big fishing companies to clean up their nets. Or make them pay a % of cleanup. Fine then if they show back up to port with fewer nets. I remember someone who worked on these ships said (on reddit, so true?) they just dump bad nets over.

Same with ships garbage. Make them hold until they hit port.

Most plastic is from large fisheries. They muddy the waters blaming small ones too.

94

u/pablo_the_bear Sep 23 '22

I'm skeptical that all countries would hold their fishermen accountable, that is even if they signed a treaty in the first place. China, for example, routinely has fishing boats off the coast of South America and they don't operate with transponders on.

Not everyone is operating using the same rules and there is no universal governing body that can effectively enforce any rules.

96

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

Don't need full compliance, 10% would make a meaningful impact.

Stop letting "but China!" Stop us from doing anything. Perfection is the enemy of progress.

33

u/Kirk_Kerman Sep 23 '22

Also, hit them with sovereignty. Mystery ships poaching in your waters with stealth mode on? Arrest the crews and commandeer the ships into your own mercantile fleets.

19

u/Eric1491625 Sep 23 '22

The thing is, the vast majority of fishing boats don't actually cross the boundary, they stay just outside it.

19

u/[deleted] Sep 23 '22

[deleted]

11

u/nictheman123 Sep 23 '22

While I agree with you in principle, I will remind you: wars have been started over less.

18

u/happy-facade Sep 23 '22

nirvana fallacy.

yeah, mandating fishing won’t stop ALL plastic waste, but certainly enough to warrant a mandate.

4

u/drewbreeezy Sep 23 '22

Yes, and no.

If you mandate in one country, but another country makes no mandates and easy to register there then most large companies will do that. We see it with how they register to dodge taxes and have more favorable laws. (Delaware. Ireland)

This isn't saying don't add mandates, but instead simply seeing the world how it operates instead of how I wish it would.

1

u/could_use_a_snack Sep 23 '22

Maybe make the companies that produce the nets charge a clean up tax. Basically make it so expensive to replace the net that people won't dump them. If they are damaged they need to take them back to get a core charge refunded. I know internationally this is impossible. But the fishing companies are just doing business the cheapest way they can. They don't make the nets. The companies that produce the plastic are to blame because they just wash their hands of the problem once the item has been sold

1

u/BigMcThickHuge Sep 23 '22

China literally writes "science vessel" on their illegal ships pulling whales so they can get around that sort of thing.

I don't know if there's any country that illegally fishes the shit out of everyone else's water and sees no consequences like they do.

1

u/AcaciaShrike Sep 23 '22

Sea Shepard has had remarkable success partnering with local law enforcement in the Mediterranean and west Africa coats. You don’t just need AIS transponders, one can do it with satellite imagery and other remotely-sensed data. Even if it’s hard, persistance does work. Look, even Japan has ceased whaling in the protected areas

24

u/cariocano Sep 23 '22

They also stop it from getting there. They have two main projects. One is an autonomous cleanup system in the great garbage patch. The other is tackling the rivers that pollute the most. The company is the ocean cleanup project and they’re an awesome company to donate to.

17

u/[deleted] Sep 23 '22

Here's a video of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rVTWsQ23Pk

There's still a very valid case to be made for doing stuff at municipal levels to keep things from getting into the rivers to begin with. But that kind of stuff takes time. If giant river fences can help in the interim, that's a good thing. I'm also a little exhausted by the continued cynicism toward the Ocean Cleanup guys. They've passed the "talk" phase and made much more progress than anyone expected in a very short amount of time.

2

u/wizardyourlifeforce Sep 24 '22

They spent ungodly amounts of money to get the same plastic that a beach cleanup can do for the price of gloves and bags. They are in terms of expenditures to benefits the least effective conservation project I know of.

2

u/cariocano Sep 23 '22

Thanks, I’ve been a donor for years. Wild people talk shit about a company cleaning up everyone’s trash. Stfu or do something ya know.

3

u/LjSpike Sep 23 '22

I think some criticisms of them are definitely true (how much fuel does it take to run a ship to overcome the drag of the boom, I'd be intrigued to that) but the truth is they are doing something, which is a lot better than anyone else in this field is doing at present to something that is a problem.

2

u/swamphockey Sep 25 '22

The criticism (not mine) is what they are doing is worse than doing nothing:

They are funded by the polluters and are helping to fuel misdirection (unintended or not) from the real problem:

https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/ocean-cleanup-struggles-fulfill-promise-scoop-up-plastic-sea-2021-09-16/

"I think they’re coming from a good place of wanting to help the ocean, but by far the best way to help the ocean is to prevent plastic from getting in the ocean in the first place," said Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the Center for American Progress.

"Once plastic has gotten into the open ocean, it becomes very expensive and fossil-fuel intensive to get it back out again."

Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, a plastic pollution research organization expressed frustration that the group's funding comes from companies "that are actually making the products and packaging. They don't really like the preventative story”

These (on the surface well meaning) cleanup and recycling projects are being funded and promoted by the polluters as a way to deflect responsibility and accountability and to keep polluting.

So far that effort is paying off because the amount of plastic being disposed of into the ocean is expected to triple from 8 million tons to 29 million tonnes annually by 2040.

1

u/swamphockey Sep 24 '22

What is the criticism toward the cleanup guys?

They cleaned up 120 tons. Remarkable achievement.

Every year USA disposes of 121,000 tons of plastic into the ocean and China 3.5 million tons of plastic into the ocean. The total is 8m tons of plastic into the ocean every year.

3

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

The river pollution project is significant, but not the largest source.

One of the team-seas video puts it at like 10%. It's a lot, and import, but this is one of those things that we can do both, independently.

We have lots of garbage to clean up. We will never get most of it cleaned up if we don't attack the main source, commercial fishing.

1

u/cariocano Sep 23 '22

For sure. It all needs to be worked on. Def not an either/or thang

1

u/wizardyourlifeforce Sep 24 '22

They’re not an awesome company to donate to. I work in the conservation world and they are considered ineffective. The post above on the projects drawbacks is a good one.

1

u/swamphockey Sep 24 '22

The criticism (not mine):

They are funded by the polluters are are a helping to fuel misdirection (unintended or not) from the real problem:

https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/ocean-cleanup-struggles-fulfill-promise-scoop-up-plastic-sea-2021-09-16/

"I think they’re coming from a good place of wanting to help the ocean, but by far the best way to help the ocean is to prevent plastic from getting in the ocean in the first place," said Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the Center for American Progress.

"Once plastic has gotten into the open ocean, it becomes very expensive and fossil-fuel intensive to get it back out again."

Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, a plastic pollution research organization expressed frustration that the group's funding comes from companies "that are actually making the products and packaging. They don't really like the preventative story”

These (on the surface well meaning) ridiculous cleanup and recycling projects are being funded and promoted by the polluters. It’s a way to deflect responsibility and accountability and to keep polluting.

Every year USA disposes of 121,000 tons of plastic into the ocean and China 3.5 million tons of plastic into the ocean. The total is 8m tons of plastic into the ocean every year.

6

u/freexe Sep 23 '22

The biggest thing to happen is that because nets are made of high quality plastics a market has developed for used nets which has made it economical for them to bring their nets back to sell.

2

u/Happy_Nidoking Sep 23 '22

Look up Fishy Filaments in Cornwall, UK. They're taking used fishing nets to turn into use as 3D printing plastic at commercial level.

1

u/Karcinogene Sep 23 '22

What do the second-hand buyers do once the nets are no good? Sell them again?

1

u/freexe Sep 23 '22

They use the plastic in the nets for clothes, 3d printing spools etc... It's a very high quality plastic so it's good for lots of things beyond life as a net

6

u/Mr_Hu-Man Sep 23 '22

Here’s the thing; that same country is doing exactly that: building river cleanup operations and machinery that stops plastic entering the oceans in the first place

2

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

Yep. It's pretty crazy seeing it in action stopping trash from getting to the ocean is important.

3

u/No-Definition1474 Sep 23 '22

The navy waits until they're out far enough and then unload everything in the water. I worked with an old Navy man and he would tell stories about the snail trail they would leave in the ocean for miles and miles. There are all kinds of rules about what they can dump, when and where, but they don't follow them. Oil, trash, sewage. You name it. Imagine the trash that a mobile city generates. All of it, the power plant trash the food waste, the human waste. Everything goes into the ocean.

It's honestly not something we can fix easily either because doing so directly contradicts the armed forces primary directive. Combat readiness. The moment a ship is busy unloading trash is the moment they're no longer ready to respond to a threat. That's how it will always be viewed.

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

Our navy is a small, but not insignificant source. I'm picking on the US nave because it's like half of the worlds navy.

Any reduction helps.

Commercial shipping is the largest source by far. 10% reduction of them is almost as much as 100% of the US navel waste.

2

u/No-Definition1474 Sep 23 '22

Wait commercial shipping is the biggest source of actual trash? That can't be right. I'd belive they're the highest source of pollution via CO2 emissions and the like but not actual trash. Not when we have barges with a mountain of trash each just dumping right into the sea. The biggest source of actual plastic has to be the actual trash dumping. Coastal cities all over the world just dump their trash. That has to dwarf everything else.

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

Yep plastic nets are the biggest by weight in the patch. Coastal city & river garbage is big, but like half of what the fishing industry drops.

CO2 is the shipping industry.

1

u/No-Definition1474 Sep 23 '22

Um..a quick Google search gives me results of 70-80% of plastic is from land...the rest is dropped in the ocean by shipping and fishing. Which would seem to make the most sense.

3

u/Shwifty_Plumbus Sep 23 '22

When I was younger I watched fishing boats dump car batteries straight into the ocean. Made me sick.

3

u/plippityploppitypoop Sep 23 '22

If I have to choose between theoretical prevention and actual real mitigation, I’d choose the real one.

But I don’t have to choose.

Do both.

3

u/Nuclear_rabbit Sep 24 '22

A lot of ocean waste is river discharge in Asian countries. If international partnerships funnel a few billions into landfills, garbage trucks, and waste management personnel for strategic Asian cities, that would be the most cleanup for the fewest dollars.

Maybe some would go for it. Unfortunately China would refuse every such offer.

9

u/zortlord Sep 23 '22

Treaties, laws, and agreements are just lip service without enforcement. And how would everyone enforce that fisheries clean up their trash?

11

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

Spot checks. Ship shows up to port with no trash or no nets, you know what they did.

The threat of strict regulation has been effective in the past. We don't need 100% compliance, even 10% would make more of an impact than the rate the company in this article can clean up.

5

u/zortlord Sep 23 '22

Spot checks. Ship shows up to port with no trash or no nets, you know what they did.

"Our net got stuck on something on the seafloor and we had to cut it loose."

12

u/AdultInslowmotion Sep 23 '22

Then they still pay a fine for that.

Again, it’s not that there are no loopholes it’s just enforcing SOME compliance would be an improvement.

1

u/[deleted] Sep 24 '22

make a claim with insurance, not my problem

0

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

That's fine, do they have any of the fish caught by trawling? Were they trawling nets? Do they have the rigs for it?

1

u/Oscar5466 Sep 23 '22

Market control can help, just like the EU working to minimize imports of products that are manufactured by child labor, countries can push back against fish products that are achieved by mandating proof of sustainable operations including garbage reduction.

None of that will be perfect and there will always be the argument that it will drive consumer pricing up but doing nothing is also unacceptable.

1

u/zortlord Sep 23 '22

Just like market controls have stopped the shrimp-related slave labor.

2

u/froggison Sep 23 '22

I feel stopping it from getting there would be more effective

I know the rest of your comment is about fishing (and we need to do something about that), but The Ocean Cleanup also builds and deploys river interceptors in polluted rivers, that stop trash from flowing into the ocean.

2

u/Uberzwerg Sep 23 '22

be more effective

While you're 100% right, it's VERY complicated to reach all sources. Helping the poorest of the poor to get access to sane waste management in every relevant country is a huge undertaking (and must be done). Getting poor fishermen (and bigger fishery industry)to undertandand care is also important.

While thousands of initiatives could and should work on that with all the regional politics standing in their ways, we can already start to clean up the mess at hand.

2

u/bkr1895 Sep 23 '22 edited Sep 23 '22

It’s a collaborative effort they need to do their part to clean it up but we also need someone working to prevent it from happening in the first place

2

u/Wolfwillrule Sep 23 '22

Theyre working to do both. Not stated in this article but the guy who started this also has floating recepiticles that pick trash off rivers.

2

u/TheXypris Sep 23 '22

Problem is, unless the plastic is actually removed, it just stays there forever

You need to both remove what's already there and stop more from being added to even make a dent

1

u/shortyman920 Sep 23 '22

Your thinking is correct. But unfortunately it’s not going to be happen.

5

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

Why not? The threat of regulation on shipping companies got them to cut down their emissions.

1

u/shortyman920 Sep 23 '22

It’s not going to eliminate it because so long as there’s areas of the earth that do not care, that’s where trash is going to end up, and they’re tossing it straight in the ocean. And oversight is also impossible across the board. We can reduce to some degree, but there’s also a need for NGOs like these to do cleanup because it’s impossible to expect human greed to take a backseat to what’s right for the earth.

It’s not what I want, but it’s a reality

3

u/callebbb Sep 23 '22

A company fishing off the coast of South America can’t dump their garbage in the Indian Ocean.

As an above poster said, perfection is the enemy of progress. Just because the solution won’t PERFECTLY fix it, it will still do more good than what is being done today.

2

u/shortyman920 Sep 23 '22

Yes And I’m not saying we can’t cut global garbage disposal into the ocean from say (making this up) 40% to 25%. But populations is rising. There’s war and conflict which will destroy materials. And there’s plenty of corporations who will skirt the rules even in regulated places because of blind eye, and even if a place is blatantly violating, it’ll be well more than thousands of tons of trash in the ocean before they are penalized to a point where they stop. Or maybe they build the cost of penalty into business model.

My point is that we cannot escape this extra layer of removal. All good large scale processes have multiple safeguards and layers of protection anyway. It seems like this NGO is filling one of those and I see that as nothing but a good thing. All we can do is try and make progress in each layer, potentially add more layers, and know understand we need all layers to maximize our cleanliness.

And after all that we’ll still continue to get large hazardous deposits 😑

1

u/swamphockey Sep 24 '22

Not in this case. The criticism:

They are funded by the polluters are are a helping to fuel misdirection (unintended or not) from the real problem:

https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/ocean-cleanup-struggles-fulfill-promise-scoop-up-plastic-sea-2021-09-16/

"I think they’re coming from a good place of wanting to help the ocean, but by far the best way to help the ocean is to prevent plastic from getting in the ocean in the first place," said Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the Center for American Progress.

"Once plastic has gotten into the open ocean, it becomes very expensive and fossil-fuel intensive to get it back out again."

Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, a plastic pollution research organization expressed frustration that the group's funding comes from companies "that are actually making the products and packaging. They don't really like the preventative story”

These (on the surface well meaning) ridiculous cleanup and recycling projects are being funded and promoted by the polluters. It’s a way to deflect responsibility and accountability and to keep polluting.

Every year USA disposes of 121,000 tons of plastic into the ocean and China 3.5 million tons of plastic into the ocean. The total is 8m tons of plastic into the ocean every year.

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

I said it in another comment, we don't need 100% compliance to have a huge impact. ~5M tons are dumped annually. 1% is 50k tons.

Don't let perfect ruin progress.

2

u/drewbreeezy Sep 23 '22

Yes, but viewing the absolute minimal effort as progress isn't helpful either. Especially if companies can use it as a distraction so their real pollution gets ignored by the public.

Like the paper straws mess.

1

u/Resonosity Sep 23 '22

Can hit both fronts at the same time.

There is a portion of the human population that resists any and all change, even if it's for the betterment of the entire biosphere, and corporations will continue to provide products for that people.

Government action would be good, but we already know how hard it was to achieve a partial-binding treaty on climate change with the Paris Accord.

Reacting to the problem is a way for leaders to get out in front and show the world that this is a problem, which will sway minds over time and lead to the change we want to see.

Bottom-up and top-down.

Urgent problem is to get plastic out of Southeast Asia. Chronic problem is removing plastic from the biosphere completely, whether by creating tightly controlled circular economies or developing green plastics, green in one sense deriving from non-fossil, bio-based raw materials, and in another decomposing naturally according to the microflora and -fauna in the oceans and soils.

And of course talking about the impacts of plastic with others and committing to choosing anything else above plastic when buying stuff, when possible, are good things to do too

-2

u/holydamien Sep 23 '22

International treaties on fishing can mandate the big fishing companies to clean up their nets. Or make them pay a % of cleanup. Fine then if they show back up to port with fewer nets.

They'll burn down their ships in protest if you ask them that.

People are greedy, fisherman and farmers are worst than your average human.

We need a global ban on all individual fishing, and nationalise all industrial fishing to control this sufficiently. They can farm fish if they want a livelihood.

-1

u/Eric1491625 Sep 23 '22

We need a global ban on all individual fishing, and nationalise all industrial fishing to control this sufficiently. They can farm fish if they want a livelihood.

Considering the number of societies who have historically depended on fishing for survival, a ban like this would be nothing short of Holodomor-style genocide.

You do realise, "Nationalise food production" has not been considered a sane idea ever since Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Kim did it in the 20th century.

1

u/holydamien Sep 23 '22

Obviously not those small folk.

The industrial ones and ones from the developed world.

You do realise, "Nationalise food production" has not been considered a sane idea ever since Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Kim did it in the 20th century.

You do realise that privitising things ended up having disastrous effects on both the economy and the environment, right?

Capitalism needs to be purged if we are keen on saving whatever we got left.

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

That's fine, take the ship. Either they spend the little effort or we all pay.

Better to take out the bad ones who are greedy / won't follow rules. We are paying for it.

0

u/TheKingOfTCGames Sep 23 '22

Lmao fisherman and farmers are greedier then your average human?! Are you serious.

Garbage statement from garbage karen.

1

u/holydamien Sep 23 '22

Tell me you haven't met with any farmers or fisherman without telling me you haven't met with any.

1

u/Eric1491625 Sep 23 '22

Thing is, nobody can really enforce this. The number of fishing boats is huge, it's in the millions, most of which are pretty small boats. Good luck monitoring them.

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

They can totally enforce it. Most of the big stuff is by corps. If I remember right, globally it's like 2/3 of all waste comes from like 10 companies.

1

u/Eric1491625 Sep 23 '22

There is no such statistic saying 2/3 of ocean waste comes from 10 fishing companies. Fishing is a very decentralised industry globally done by many small groups of fishermen.

1

u/seaworthy-sieve Sep 23 '22

Fine then if they show back up to port with fewer nets.

This has been tried. They started hiding extra nets onboard.

1

u/_Apatosaurus_ Sep 23 '22

I feel stopping it from getting there would be more effective.

An NGO can't control international treaties nor police fishing vessels. They are working through a method they can control.

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

No, but enough public outcry can. NGOs can be effective in getting the public educated.

Cfc ban was effective. Reduction of flipper-in-tuna rules worked. DDT bans worked.

1

u/errorsniper Sep 23 '22

We have truckers having full blown meltdowns that they have to put DEF in their trucks. No one will ever self regulate.

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 23 '22

The first step is asking them nicely, second step is making them by regulation.

1

u/TurnedEvilAfterBan Sep 23 '22

While I understand the sentiment, getting a group of people to agreeing to incur a cost is so much harder than having an individual company to clean it up.

1

u/swamphockey Sep 24 '22

Every year USA disposes of 121,000 tons of plastic into the ocean and China 3.5 million tons of plastic into the ocean. The total is 8m tons of plastic into the ocean every year.

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 24 '22

And? The "but China" whataboutism has gotten old.

How does us fixing many parts of the issue get stopped by this?

2

u/swamphockey Sep 24 '22 edited Sep 24 '22

The criticism (not mine!):

They are funded by the polluters are are a helping to fuel misdirection (unintended or not) from the real problem:

https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/ocean-cleanup-struggles-fulfill-promise-scoop-up-plastic-sea-2021-09-16/

"I think they’re coming from a good place of wanting to help the ocean, but by far the best way to help the ocean is to prevent plastic from getting in the ocean in the first place," said Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the Center for American Progress.

"Once plastic has gotten into the open ocean, it becomes very expensive and fossil-fuel intensive to get it back out again."

Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, a plastic pollution research organization expressed frustration that the group's funding comes from companies "that are actually making the products and packaging. They don't really like the preventative story”

These (on the surface well meaning) ridiculous cleanup and recycling projects are being funded and promoted by the polluters. It’s a way to deflect responsibility and accountability and to keep polluting.

So far that effort is paying off because the amount of plastic being disposed of into the ocean is expected to nearly triple to 29 million tonnes annually by 2040.

Again not my view on the issue but this is the criticism out there

1

u/swamphockey Sep 24 '22

The criticism?

They are funded by the polluters are are a helping to fuel misdirection (unintended or not) from the real problem:

https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/ocean-cleanup-struggles-fulfill-promise-scoop-up-plastic-sea-2021-09-16/

"I think they’re coming from a good place of wanting to help the ocean, but by far the best way to help the ocean is to prevent plastic from getting in the ocean in the first place," said Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the Center for American Progress.

"Once plastic has gotten into the open ocean, it becomes very expensive and fossil-fuel intensive to get it back out again."

1

u/grendel_x86 Sep 24 '22

I don't think that group is bad in any way. I have donated to several.

We just aren't attacking the biggest polluter. They contribute more then this NGO will ever be able to clean up.

2

u/swamphockey Sep 24 '22

Not bad, in any way however the efforts have been accused as being counterproductive:

Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, a plastic pollution research organization expressed frustration that the group's funding comes from companies "that are actually making the products and packaging. They don't really like the preventative story”

These (on the surface well meaning) cleanup and recycling projects are being funded and promoted by the polluters. It’s a way to deflect responsibility and accountability and to keep polluting.

So far that effort is paying off because the amount of plastic being disposed of into the ocean is expected to nearly triple to 29 million tonnes annually by 2040.