Ocean cleanup

The Largest Ocean Cleanup

Ironically, did not happen in the ocean, but in rivers draining into the ocean. This costed under 100,000 USD in capital costs; No boats or operating costs were incurred to arrest the plastics.

With technology developed by AlphaMERS in 2015, about 22000 Tons of trash including 2200 Tons of plastics were stopped from reaching the ocean from a river in India in 2018. It is a proverbial drop in the ocean, but the most successful intervention anywhere so far. No fuel or boats were used to collect and bring plastics to riverbank within reach of land based excavators for onward disposal. Now these barriers are deployed in many more coastal streams. AlphaMERS is continuously developing and implementing technologies to clean rivers, streams and storm water drains. The firm has also prototyped and successfully tested an ocean wave energy harnessing device. D C Sekhar, the author is the founder of http://www.alphamers.com

The sheer size of the ocean, a seasonally hostile environment, the challenges of skimming the surface in the waves, and the energy needs of such an exercise is daunting, to say the least. This is besides the funding required and the ‘why’ and ‘who’ will do it.

To go deep into the oceans and work its lifting gears requires a vessel of a significant minimum size. That burns good money and a large amount of fuel. The negative net environmental benefit is apparent to anyone who wants to see objectively, without tinted glasses.

To go into the seas to clean up, requires VERY smart thinking, beyond having a large amount of funds at your disposal. The logistics must be modeled and remodeled until it is dirt cheap environmentally and financially. The operating cost must be reduced to the barest minimum to enable expand the model to the humongous scale required. The ocean renewable must be harnessed to the maximum extent.

The systems must be able to withstand the seasonal and nonseasonal harsh weather. Any manned platform needs a lot of facilities for physical and mental well being of those on board and these are well regulated. Unmanned mobile platforms are perhaps the only viable way forward and remote control technology is available to integrate it to the chosen model. Ocean waves have a lot of energy and is more space efficient than solar. Any system that is narrowed down, needs to harness the energy from ocean waves to have a decent shot at solving the problem.

Shutting the tap before mopping the floor, makes common sense. There are thousands of rivers as taps to shut and many of them are high priority. In a river, the plastics are within a well defined boundary and in one broad trajectory. It is not a two dimensional spread like in the ocean. The location you choose to collect the plastics can have, and must have road connectivity.

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