The Ocean Cleanup launched it’s very first vessel to the Great Pacific Gyre on September 8, 2018 as a test. And I was there as a witness. The best part of it was to see all the people who were specifically there at the San Franciso waterfront across the entire city just to watch this amazing feat!
We’ve all heard by now – lots of skepticism around the ambitious undertaking for cleaning up the world’s largest garbage patch. I won’t reiterate but you can click through these links and read much of the naysayers.
The world needs change. And this project is such a BIG change that even those of us calling for the very change are reluctant to take a stand behind it.
It’s time we all collaborate – NO this is NOT the solution.
The world needs to collaborate. One way to stop all the damage we’ve been causing out there is to communicate with and support each other. This project is not the end all – even Boyan Slat – isn’t saying it is. In his response to a specific weak criticism – he clearly states it. It’s just the naysayers saying this is not the solution. Boyan agrees with you. This is not THE solution – and it’s a necessary part of it.
There needs to be a change in the way we think about our consumption habits to our plastics addiction to the way we handle our waste. To show their support and belief in this full ecosystem The Ocean Clean-up Project partners with organizations and companies who focus in these various areas.
Every single solution that is out there is needed. It was surprising to me to read a criticism on Boyan’s ambition to go out to the great pacific patch. Instead, the critic demanded, he should focus more on coast lines – like the wonderful Mr. TrashWheel is doing in Baltimore. Since May 2014 they’ve removed 900 tons of waste from the enclosed Baltimore Canal – what used to be the ugliest sight is now a very pleasant walk. A doubtless victory. It’s not like Mr. TrashWheel didn’t start up with it’s own similar skeptics at the time though. Fast forward a few challenging years and they showed that this is a great undertaking for any coastline – absolutely. It takes nearly half a million dollars to start and maintain that little machine + added costs and improvements on the waste management infrastructure that most cities in the US don’t even want to consider. For 900 tons in 4 years with an average of about $150K+ annual cost (in addition to the previously mentioned setup cost). And to be clear – YES it is worth it, no question about it. Still the same threats and challenges – removing microorganisms, endangering turtles, expensive equipment, requiring changes in systems that aren’t even there yet, etc. They’ve found ways to handle and work through these challenges.
Take also beach-cleanups. Most skeptics are also against them. One major criticism is: They are too small, they are not the solution, we need to stop the plastics from going in in the first place. We’re all in agreement.
And here – these awesome people have made a HUGE dent removing over 1.1Million tons of trash in less than 2 years. Here’s a single person who initiated the largest cleanup on the planet and cleaned up over 11million pounds! And those plastics now are no longer a threat to the ocean.
They are also needed and it DOES make a difference to many of the people who live along the coastlines.
One other criticism is that this will be a distraction from actually reducing the consumption and generation of plastics in the first place. We need people to tackle all of it – divide and conquer. Work together with the Ocean Cleanup Project so they continue to highlight the importance of having to reduce the waste generation. They are expecting to be part of the conversations.
There is great value in constructive criticism. It’s the cynicism, sarcasm, negative press, and attacks – that can be channeled to other places. Places when even there is money and opportunity the changes aren’t made. Where corporations greedily continue to pump out plastics as a necessity, and consumers defend them. Where governments and cities don’t follow up on their promises. Where businesses work to convince people a small change in eliminating plastics is going to take upwards of 3-5 years. Where past legislations and laws aren’t enforced. Where commitments aren’t measured and communicated. These kinds of places call for all kinds of cynicism – then again – with a purpose of working together to solve rather than attacking the other. Coca-Cola, Starbucks, McDonalds’ aren’t going away. People’s demand for convenience isn’t either. How do we bring given factors like these together and create an infrastructure where no product in any part of it’s lifecycle is a threat to the environment, BEFORE it’s past the point of no return? How do we hold governments, companies, businesses, consumers accountable?
Visionaries like Boyan are the ones to wake us up. Work together and collaborate! If you have a better idea to tackle the garbage patch while getting the attention AND support of all these known polluters – let him know – he’s listening.
One of the best parts of this Ocean Cleanup Project – is the publicity and PR it’s generating in circles that normally wouldn’t even consider the topic. Look at his major sponsors – a shipping company, a company from the chemicals industry, dredging experts, plastic manufacturers. SO many vastly different people coming together agreeing that this problem requires a solution.
We have to work on every part of the problem. I think the undertaking is extremely ambitious. As was the Electric car with Musk. I also think there will be multiple iterations, and I think there is a difference between saying “that’s stupid it’s gonna <insert criticism of your choice>” versus “that’s an approach we haven’t tried yet, let’s see how we can account for <insert criticism of your choice> with this type of technology.”
The vision for our wonderful planet is changing. Now we need to adjust our tones and mindsets while we remember we’re all in this together. Good luck to us all!