Physical waste

“It is vital to get people to understand the problems and make them realise it is not just for governments to control. It needs the average person to say enough is enough for the right informed reasons.”  – Sir Peter Blake

With this in mind, who heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Should you have managed to escape this news: The great pacific garbage patch is a massive accumulation of plastic garbage in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. The plastic gathered – and still is gathering in this area – thanks to an interplay of current systems.  It has a Western and an Eastern part and is continuously growing. According to Greenpeace, meanwhile  “the trash vortex of the north Pacific Ocean is an area the size of Texas”. This garbage area is really far off the coast of any landmass bordering the Pacific. Consequently, none of the countries feels responsible for it.

For some years experts thought this phenomena was limited to the Pacific. Yet the problem appears to exist in the Atlantic too: “The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees North latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia…” Read the full article here. It is a good example of the tricky challenges to meet in the near future when it comes to pollution handling.

The plastic is out there and the effects are heartbreaking. There is a photographic documentation project called Message from the Gyre by Chris Jordan. The photo series shows dead birds full of plastic pieces, in drastic detail. Fact is, the birds – and countless other marine animals -mistake the plastic for food and swallow it. Then they suffocate. Their systems collapse.

But this wouldn’t be our 21st century if someone did not already come up with some innovative, wonderful bold idea to at least help to alleviate part of that problem, too. WHIM architecture, a Dutch company based in Rotterdam, NL, enters the scene. They envision nothing more, nothing less than transforming these very garbage patches into… guess it? See their slide show to believe it, too! After all, if Jean Claude and Christo could wrap entire islands just for fun – then why should  this not be possible? In my mind, I already added sailing ships making all sorts of delivery and transport service to these island(s). Including exploration tours around it.

recycled garbage islandImage courtesy of WHIM architecture

And of course there is that smart young Dutchman, Boyan Slat, who found a great looking solution and is working with his team to get it applied: Have a look at the Ocean Clean-up project!

Then again, have a look at this site where a fierce discussion is taking place around that very same topic. Turns out, some journalist reportedly had taken photos at Manila harbour and created the impression that the scenery would be the garbage patch. What storms across the global village promptly is the usual fight between two camps: Denial (all you doomsday prophets, our blue marble is just fine!) versus advocacy (you keep faking nothing happened – the cockroaches will have the last word!). It is an interesting discussion, highlighting one well known issue: How to achieve credibility? How to keep it, especially in the eye of such storms?

Apart from wild discussions, who else is out there on the seven seas with good ideas, besides recycled island creators?  Regatta organisers seem to have developed real awareness, too. The Clean Regatta initiative of Sailors for the Sea is worth a closer look. As the name already tells, it strives to minimise harmful ecological impacts on marine life during sailing regattas. Here is a list of their best practises.

For those sailing in UK waters, here is a list of sewage pump-out stations in the UK. Marine life will thank you for taking that extra effort. For those in French Riviera waters,  have a look at Azure Trend who came up with an excellent service: Ecotank. You don’t have to queue for hours inside a marina until you can empty your grey water tank – the grey water tank service will visit the boat and get the work done. Serving vessels at anchor and on the quay alike, Ecotank offers “a year round, quiet, unobtrusive and professional mobile pump-out facility” and “…Steam-cleaning engines and their bilges, removing the grease build-up while protecting the vessel’s electrical circuits” plus “cleaning and disinfecting tanks and bilges”…one of three very interesting service branches Azure Trend is specialised in.  Thus far, they offer their services along the entire French Riviera coast – at affordable prices also for boats smaller than 15 metres – and in these locations. Their site definitely is worth a visit.

About mele

I research and write about the intersection of yachting with the environment aka 'sustainable sailing'. From sourcing planet-friendly yacht construction materials, sailors for ocean science, clean regattas, renewable energies aboard right up to yacht recycling. Academic training in environmental science, sailor, living at the shores of the Dutch IJsselmeer. Want me to write for you, too? Get in touch!

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