Why in news?
- Under the Ocean Clean-up project, a floating device designed to catch plastic waste has been redeployed in a second attempt to clean up an island of trash swirling in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii.
What is this?
- Marine debris is defined as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes.
- Marine debris tends to collect in areas called ocean gyres, which are circular ocean currents formed by the Earth’s wind patterns and the forces created by the rotation of the planet.
- The circular motion of the gyre draws in debris which makes its way into the center of the gyre, becomes trapped and builds up.
- Trash build-ups in the middle of gyres are known as garbage patches. For example, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch exists in the North Pacific Ocean between the U.S. states of California and Hawaii.
- Marine debris injures and kills marine life, interferes with navigation safety, and poses a threat to human health.
- Our oceans and waterways are polluted with a wide variety of marine debris ranging from soda cans and plastic bags to derelict fishing gear and abandoned vessels.
- Plastic products can be very harmful to marine life. For instance, loggerhead sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, their favorite food.
- Many sea animals and birds have become strangled by the plastic rings used to hold six-packs of soda together.
- Plastics do not biodegrade quickly. Cooler ocean temperatures prevent these products from truly degrading. They simply break down into tiny particles called micro plastics.
- Micro plastics are pieces of debris between 0.3 and 5 millimeters (0.01 to 0.20 inches) thick, no thicker than a grain of rice.
- These tiny pieces of plastic can collect in the stomachs of marine animals, interfering with digestion and the animals are at risk of malnutrition and starvation.
- Floating on the ocean’s surface, these microplastics can block the sun’s rays from reaching plants and algae that depend on the sun to create nutrients. When these organisms are threatened, the entire marine food web may be disturbed.
- As plastics get smaller and smaller, they release chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) which interferes with animals’ reproductive systems and exposed fish produce fewer healthy offspring.
- BPA and other chemicals build up in the fish’s body through a process called bioaccumulation.
- Top predators such as sharks or dolphins, which eat the fish, accumulate the most chemicals.
- Fisheries shrink, weakening the area’s economy.
- Discarded fishing lines and nets trap fish, along with marine mammals, turtles, and birds.
- The United Nations reported that the approximate environmental damage caused by plastic to marine ecosystems represents 13 billion USD.
Ocean cleanup project?
- The Ocean cleanup project is a non-profit organization, based in the Netherlands which is developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.
- It has conducted two expeditions to the North Pacific Gyre.
- The clean-up approach uses barriers in ocean gyres to scoop up marine debris as the barrier is pushed by wind and current.
- The project aims to launch a total of 60 such systems in the patch by 2021.
- India is a part of the Ocean Clean-up project.
- It has also initiated lending hand in the cleanup of the great pacific garbage patch.