What Do You Do When 18M Tons of Plastic Arrive on Your Coast?

By October 27, 2011 Ocean News
Tsunami debris in Japan

The tragedy of the Tsunami that hit Japan last March (2011) is still causing havoc to the world. This time it’s causing concern to the West Coast of North America. It’s something that I never thought would happen…but it did.

Approximately 18 Million tonnes of trash consisting of houses, appliances, cars, TVs, and other trash was washed out to sea after the Tsunami hit the east coast of Japan. The trash spans approximately 3,200 kms long and 1,600 kms wide. The Tsunami Pacific garbage patch is expected to reach Hawai’i by 2013 and the West Coast of North America by 2014.

Man…this sucks. Imagine the beautiful views that will be ruined in Hawai’i and North America due to the presence of millions of tons of trash. Also imagine how much damage it will cause to marine life in the Pacific Ocean. Plastic and trash can get caught around the necks of marine life like sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals and suffocate them.

Plastic and trash is already responsible for the deaths of more than hundreds of thousands of ocean species…now the number will grow due to the increased amount of garbage creating another Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.

Tsunami debris in Japan

Two photos show the same coast in northeastern Japan on March 12, 2011, before and after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the area. About 18 million tonnes of debris from the disasters are projected to float onto the B.C. coast by 2014. (Associated Press/Kyodo News)

How to Solve the Problem

So how do you stop 18 million tons of trash from not only cluttering multiple coasts, but damaging habitats, killing ocean species, and hitting industries like tourism hard??? That seems to be the million dollar question. A question, which to this date, has not been answered. Trash, especially plastic is found all throughout the Oceans, in big pieces and microscopic pieces, and no one has tried to pick it all up. I mean who would…is that even possible?

It is possible according to Captain Jim “Homer” Holms, co-founder of the Clean Oceans Project. Last week, Speak Up for Blue posted an interview with Homer discussing the organization’s plans to pick up all the plastic which is polluting the Ocean (check out the full interview here). Homer told us that his organization was not only going to pick up plastic debris from the Ocean, but they would dispose of it by heating it up until it breaks down into fuel, it’s original form. Is there technology to do that? YES there is. It’s not fully available yet to the public, but it is on its way and Homer is helping to get the technology out there as fast as possible, which is great because we are really going to need it in a year or two.

Yesterday someone emailed me asking what the plan was to deal with all of this trash coming to our coasts. I responded by telling him that I didn’t quite know; however, the fact that scientists are able to track the massive garbage patch in the open sea and encourage volunteers to take pictures of the patch as they sail by is a feat in itself. This means we will be able to know what is in the trash patch before it even reaches shore, which also means we can do a better job at cleaning it up by knowing what is in it.

My suggestion would be to get the Clean Ocean’s Project on their way as soon as possible to begin cleaning up this patch before it reaches any shore, but this requires funding…and lots of it. Soooo…If you want to see this garbage patch cleaned up, I suggest you click over to the Clean Ocean’s Project and donate to help fund them. Don’t have the cash? Then donate your time. The staff need help with logistics and gathering information about the technologies to clean up our Oceans! This is the chance for you to make a difference.

First thing’s first…click over and WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH THE CLEAN OCEANS PROJECT to get a better understanding of the complex problem that is plastic pollution.

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