08 December 2010

5 Gyres Q&A: Thinking about solutions

Marcus Eriksen
The 5 Gyres team put beliefs into action

The 5 Gyres crew have been taking questions from their Facebook and Twitter fans to help them better understand the issues that they’re working on. If you have a question, join their social networking platforms and ask away. This article, written by 5 Gyres co-founder Marcus Eriksen, was originally published on the 5 Gyres blog.

See also: The Sea Dragon’s arrival is imminent!

What brought you here and how can we inspire future generations to move in a different, non-disposal direction? – Catharine Vargas

A “non-disposal direction” is exactly what we envision as we usher in the “Age of Rationality”. There’s no room for the concept of “waste”, philosophically or literally. With 6.5-billion customers in a globalised economy, any manufacture of the smallest widget can turn into a mountain of waste if there is no post-consumer plan.

The Age of Rationality means we plan for the lifecycle of what we create. Producers take responsibility for the post-consumer life of their products, including better design for recycling, efficient systems of recovery, and subsidised value for post-consumer plastic.

In a literal sense, there is no more room for waste in the world. Today we are exactly halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, as far from land as we could possibly be. Yet there’s confetti of plastic pollution across the ocean surface in all directions.

What consumes your thoughts most of the time while you are at sea? Do you feel more positive or more negative out there? Are there any feasible solutions to the problems that you’ve thought of while at sea? – Kate Kelsch Esaia

I think about solutions often. One that I’ve thought through is the issue of cleaning up the sea by going to the sea. The instant reaction most of us have is, “Well, just get a big net and scoop it up!”

It’s not that simple. Imagine a teaspoon of plastic confetti spread over a football field. Now imagine 9-million football fields in the North Pacific alone. Clean up is not impossible, just impractical.

Netting the gyre to clean up plastic is like standing on a skyscraper with a vacuum cleaner to suck up smog. But it would be cost effective to let plastic wash ashore on islands, then clean it up.

The subtropical gyres that collect plastic pollution spit it out to islands – natural nets – like Hawaii, Bermuda, Azores, Mauritius and Easter Island. The ocean will take care of itself, but we must stop adding more!

Here’s where land-based solutions are essential. Better design for recyclability, subsidised value for post-consumer plastic, bio-plastics, efficient systems of recovery and extended producer responsibility … Together these can turn off the tap of plastic flowing down our streets and streams to the sea.

blog comments powered by Disqus