Plastic in the Ocean Facts

Plastic pollution within the world’s oceans is the result of discarded consumer products such as plastic bags and bottles that have found their way from land into our waterways and out to sea. Once plastic products enter the ocean they accumulate where they do not completely breakdown compromising the health of our natural resources and well-being of our marine life. Once plastic products enter the ocean they can be transported over large distances in systems of rotating ocean currents that are referred to as gyres. Research indicates that there are five such gyres which cover approximately 40% of the earth’s oceans.

A gyre occurs naturally as a vortex of wind and ocean currents that rotate clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere. The combinations of wind and ocean currents create a vortex effect which moves slowly at the center where discarded plastic products collect. There are 5 major gyres in the oceans all which contain plastic and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The North Pacific Gyre contains an estimated 11 million tons of floating plastic which continues to grow exponentially.

The good news is that there are many different groups around the world raising awareness and encouraging and educating the general public on things that can be done to establish change. Local, state and national government agencies are perfecting laws and policies to specifically address marine debris. Many organizations including Texas Heritage Protection participate in beach and shore line clean-up programs. Beyond coastal clean-up days, many cities in the United States are working to change attitudes and habits regarding plastics and working towards a zero waste program. Europe leads the way in reducing single bag waste but many cities in the United States have followed suit by banning single use plastic checkout bags. San Francisco has also banned the use of polystyrene food containers by restaurants and other food vendors.

But there are many more things that can be done and two local inventors, Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton are helping to lead the way by launching the Seabin, an automated trash-removal system that collects ocean debris 24 hours a day. How does it work? The Seabin is attached to a standing dock in water where it is sheltered from storms and large swells. Water is pulled into the bin where it collects trash. The water is then pushed back out and the trash is caught in a fiber net which can be pulled out to remove plastics and other debris.

The founders of the Seabin hope that their simple invention will help make a difference in the amount of plastic floating in the ocean. Both Ceglinski and Turton are hoping that the plastic trash collected by the Seabin can be repurposed to make more seabins essentially creating a domino effect to multiple the program. To date, many docks have a staffed cleanup boat that monitors the marina and the surrounding area collecting trash by hand by the Seabin has proven to be a much more cost effective and efficient clean-up program. Texas Heritage Protection is proud to educate and support technological advancements and inventions such as these.