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What We Know About Ocean Bound Plastic

 In Blog, Blogs

When we think of the ocean, many of us still hold romanticised images of crystal waters and abundant marine life. With that image in mind, the term “ocean-bound plastic” usually mentally adds a raft of floating plastic bottles and litter to the scene. In reality, ‘ocean-bound plastic’ covers plastic debris of all sizes (microplastics, mezzoplastics, and macroplastics). Any plastic abandoned within 50 kilometres of coastlines in communities or regions with inadequate or poor waste management is referred to as ocean-bound plastic.

The fishing industry is a giant polluter of our oceans. A staggering 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are abandoned and destroyed each year, posing a hidden hazard in our seas. This is one of the most dangerous types of ocean plastic. These “ghost nets” – which have been lurking for decades and will continue to litter the Earth’s oceans for the next 800 years – are inflicting damage to coral reefs and natural habitats; even making their way into our food and drinking water supplies. According to a 2018 study, abandoned fishing lines and nets that do physically break down actually remain present in our oceans as microplastic . These discarded fishing nets are wreaking havoc on our delicate ecological balance at an alarming rate.

One of the most important steps in protecting our seas and the future of our planet is collecting and recycling plastic waste discarded by the fishing industry and demanding change in fishing practices. In order to understand this process of pollution in greater depth, an all-female scientific team set off in 2019 on an expedition called “Sea to Source” to track and document the passage of “plastic rubbish from source to sea”. They found that animals from the Ganges River, like the river dolphin, otters and many types of freshwater turtles, were the most likely to die when they became entangled in abandoned fishing gear. Discarded fishing equipment is also deadly to our oceans since it has a tendency to entangle marine organisms and destroy essential habitats such as kelp beds and coral reefs.

We all have a responsibility to take action. As a major environmental focus of the recently popularised vegan movement, awareness and a change in consumer demand can truly make waves in the way the fishing industry operates. As well as grassroots movements, large corporations have been researching ways to repurpose discarded ocean-bound plastics, such as ghost gear, by incorporating them into their goods. By repurposing discarded fishing nets that would otherwise become hazardous waste, large organisations and everyday consumers alike can play an active role in protecting our seas.

Waterhaul, a not-for-profit organisation located in Cornwall, also provides a creative alternative by collecting, recycling, and reusing ghost gear into fashionable eyewear. Their ultimate goal is to recover all empty hazardous fishing material from the oceans to be recycled and repurposed into useful products. The process consists of net recovery, shredding of fibre and sand, removal of contaminants, melting and finally turning the material into pellets. The pellets are then moulded to form the 100% recycled polypropylene used in their range of eyewear and other items, such as PPE, litter pickers, sunglasses and more.

Samsung is another company pledging to lessen their impact on the environment by introducing repurposed fishing nets and plastics across production of their entire product line. As a huge household name, the electronics giant show business vision in leading the way against climate crisis.

If others follow suit, we may be able to slow the tide on plastic trash and recover some of the world’s oceans before it’s too late.

 

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