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[Mp3] How to stop plastic getting into the ocean

 

By 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean by weight, than fish.

 

Plastic pollution is definitely one of the largest threats our oceans face today.

 

Every year millions of tonnes of plastic flows from rivers into the sea, polluting ecosystems and even getting into the food chain.

 

One group of engineers is applying technology in new ways to tackle plastic pollution.

 

Rivers are really the arteries that carry the plastic from land to sea.

 

By stemming the flow at the source.

 

Roughly four million people live in the basin of the Klang river in Malaysia. It’s one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

 

This team is trying to clean it up and stop the river’s harmful waste from flowing into the ocean. They’re pinning their hopes on this rubbish-eating boat, called The Interceptor. The river’s current directs the debris onto a barrier from where it is funneled into the boat’s conveyor belt.

 

This is one of four boats being trailed by The Ocean Cleanup, a pioneering engineering company based in the Netherlands. The idea was dreamt up by Boyan Slat, who, as a 16-year-old school boy, decided to dedicate himself to ridding the ocean of plastic.

 

“I went scuba diving in Greece. And I was really hoping to see these beautiful things like you’d see in the David Attenborough documentaries. And looked around me and I just saw more plastic bags than fish, and was rather disappointed by that. And this question came to mind: “Why can’t we just clean this up?”

 

Since then his organisation has devised a number of innovative ways to apply technology to the problem.

 

“When we started The Ocean Cleanup back in 2013, we said: “let’s focus our attention on plastic that’s already out there and doesn’t go away by itself.” Yet two years later, we realized, to rid the world’s oceans of plastic, you really have to do both the prevention and the clean-up side, and started looking at the rivers.”

 

Every year millions of tonnes of plastic finds its way into the ocean, most of which floats down rivers that run through heavily populated areas, areas where waste-collection systems are flawed or non-existent, meaning millions of people are forced to use the waterways as a means of disposal.

 

But the first step to solving the problem is to understand the scale of it.

 

“What you see is that the first studies that try to estimate how much plastic is flowing into the ocean were just assumptions, heavily extrapolated over the entire globe. At the beginning, there’s nothing better than those kind of studies.”

 

But to truly calculate the amount of pollution in the rivers, they need to be monitored continuously. So, The Ocean Cleanup has come up with a new way to do just that: using a camera-monitoring system that can detect the size and type of plastic and the speed at which it’s travelling. It plans to install these cameras on bridges above rivers all over the world, in the hope that this will give a clearer idea of where they should concentrate their efforts.

 

Current analysis suggests that 80% of ocean plastic comes from around 1,000 rivers. The vast majority of the worst-polluting rivers are in Asia, Africa and South America.

 

The Pasig river in Manila is one of the worst polluters. It’s calculated that every year 96.5m kgs of plastic travels along the river, some of which ends up in the South China Sea.

 

Plastic pollution’s impact on tourism, fisheries, and governmental-cleanup projects is estimated to have cost coastal countries around $19bn per year.

 

But the long-term environmental effect could be far greater.

 

Matthias Egger is a lead scientist at The Ocean Cleanup.

 

“This is what marine-based sources of debris looks like – big.”

 

With his team, he is studying plastics collected from the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, a 1.6m sq km zone, near Hawaii, littered with marine debris.

 

But the hard work is done in a lab in Rotterdam.

 

“She is extracting the plastics from the sample. She is measuring them to put them in different size classes and different types.”

 

This laborious process allows them to understand the amount, composition and often the origin of plastic that ends up in the ocean.

 

“It looks like Japanese to me. You never see them this size. The impact on marine life is very different for the different kind of plastic and also in terms of sizes. If we have very large piece of plastic like a ghost net, for example, entanglement is the main risk. The smaller the plastic pieces, the more impactful they are on the ecosystem.”

 

Sunlight and sea water can break plastic down into microplastics, which ocean creatures often mistake for food.

 

When they eat the plastic, they absorb chemicals that then enter the food chain. The long-term effects of these plastics in the food chain and on humans, are still unknown.

 

“There’s a lot of research being done at the moment. The tricky part is plastic is very diverse. It’s not just one type of plastic, it comes in different sizes, shapes. The data we have so far indicates there is potential negative impact on the marine life. We really need to have an understanding of how much plastic is where and what kind of plastic do we find in the different marine systems, marine compartments.”

 

Interceptor boats have been installed in rivers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic, where each boat has been collecting on average 50,000kg of rubbish a day.

 

“So far, we’ve caught roughly two-thirds of the plastic that flows by.”

 

The team collaborates with governments to ensure that the plastic collected from the boats is disposed of at local waste-management facilities. But that’s not the end of The Ocean Cleanup’s efforts.

 

“For us, it’s not enough to say: ‘OK’. We’ve taken it out of the rivers, so we feel responsible to actually guarantee that the plastic doesn’t end up back into the river again.”

 

The Ocean Cleanup isn’t the only group that is trying to solve the issue of plastic pollution in the world’s rivers, but it believes they have a solution that can scale.

 

“We did not design it for one specific river. We designed The Interceptor to work in a fast-flowing river in Thailand as well as in a slow-moving river in Indonesia.”

 

Over the next few years, the team plans to gain more investment through crowd funding and independent benefactors, to add hundreds more Interceptor boats to its fleet. They also have plans to recycle some of this plastic and create products that can sell, to make the initiative self-sufficient.

 

But removing plastic pollution from the world’s dirtiest rivers will take more than just clever technology.

 

“With our Interceptors, it’s not a replacement to having good infrastructure or good policy, right? So, what we actually believe is that these things can be complementary to each other, where with these Interceptors, a lot of data is being collected which can actually help steer policy in other types of campaigns upstream.”

 

Until adequate waste collection is implemented globally, The Ocean Cleanup will struggle against the growing tide of plastic. But protectors like Boyan Slat are developing new approaches that could benefit the ocean for future generations.

 

Source: The Economist

WORD BANK:

food chain /ˈfuːd ˌtʃeɪn/ (n): chuỗi thức ăn

artery /ˈɑː.tər.i/ (n): động mạch

stem /stem/ (v):  ngăn chặn      

roughly /ˈrʌf.li/ [B2] (adv): khoảng

basin /ˈbeɪ.sən/ (n): lưu vực sông

pin one’s hopes on sth/sb (idiom): đặt hết hi vọng vào ai/cái gì

interceptor /ˌɪn.təˈsep.tər/ (n): thiết bị đánh chặn

current /ˈkʌr.ənt/ (n): dòng chảy

debris /ˈdeb.riː/ (n): mảnh vụn

conveyor belt /kənˈveɪ.ə ˌbelt/ (n): băng chuyền

pioneer /ˌpaɪəˈnɪər/ [C2] (v): tiên phong

dedicate sth to sth /ˈded.ɪ.keɪt/ [C1] (v): cống hiến cái gì cho cái gì

devise /dɪˈvaɪz/ [C2] (v): phát minh ra, nghĩ ra cái gì

flawed /flɔːd/ [C2] (adj): không hoàn hảo, có thiếu sót

assumption /əˈsʌmp.ʃən/ [C1] (n): giả định

extrapolate /ɪkˈstræp.ə.leɪt/ (v): ngoại suy

monitor /ˈmɒn.ɪ.tər/ [C1] (v): theo dõi

come up with sth [B2] (v): nghĩ ra (ý tưởng, cách thức)

detect /dɪˈtekt/ [C1] (v): phát hiện

fishery /ˈfɪʃ.ər.i/ (n): nghề cá

patch /pætʃ/ [C2] (n): mảng

litter /ˈlɪt.ər/ (v): xả rác bữa bãi

laborious /ləˈbɔː.ri.əs/ (adj): tốn nhiều công sức

composition /ˌkɒm.pəˈzɪʃ.ən/ [B2] (n): thành phần

entanglement /ɪnˈtæŋ.ɡəl.mənt/ (n): sự vướng víu

impactful /ɪmˈpækt.fəl/ (adj): tác động lớn

microplastic /ˈmaɪ.krəʊˌplæs.tɪks/ (n): hạt vi nhựa

diverse /daɪˈvɜːs/ [B2] (adj): đa dạng

compartment /kəmˈpɑːt.mənt/ (n): ngăn, khoang

collaborate with sb /kəˈlæb.ə.reɪt/ [C1] (v): hợp tác với ai

dispose of /dɪˈspəʊz/ [C1] (v): vứt bỏ, xử lý

scale /skeɪl/ (v): mở rộng quy mô

crowd funding /ˈkraʊd.fʌn.dɪŋ/ (v): huy động vốn cộng đồng

benefactor /ˈben.ɪ.fæk.tər/ (adj): nhà hảo tâm

initiative /ɪˈnɪʃ.ə.tɪv/ [C1] (n): sáng kiến

self-sufficient /ˌself.səˈfɪʃ.ənt/ [C2] (adj): tự chủ (về tài chính)

complementary /ˌkɒm.plɪˈmen.tər.i/ (adj): bổ sung

steer /stɪər/ [B2] (v): định hướng

upstream /ˌʌpˈstriːm/ (n): thượng nguồn

adequate /ˈæd.ə.kwət/ [B2] (adj): đầy đủ

implement /ˈɪm.plɪ.ment/ [B2] (v): thực hiện

struggle /ˈstrʌɡ.əl/ [B2] (v): vật lộn


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