The ocean. The place where so many of us go to relax, breathe in the fresh air and watch the ocean creatures play. Whether it be a crab skittering around in the sand, a whale breaching out at sea, or a sea urchin clinging to the rocks in a tidepool, we are fascinated with marine life. The ocean itself is not only beautiful, but it provides 70% of our oxygen, so we need to take care of it.

Plastic. What an amazing invention! It is in our clothes to make them waterproof, car seats to keep our young children safe, and in contact lenses and glasses to help us see. Plastic is in just about everything we use, like cars, computers, and even our homes. It is so widely used because it is so durable that it lasts forever, well, 1000 years, but that is longer than ten of our lifetimes. Plastic bags last 10-20 years and plastic bottles last 450 years. This is its best feature and its worst.

The Effects of Plastic in the Ocean

Oceans are a dumping ground for plastic. In fact, recently scientists have found plastics deep in the arctic ice. It is everywhere. Eight million pieces of plastic end up in our oceans every single day. Ocean mammals consume plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish, seabirds, and fish get strangled by plastic soda rings and 100% of sea turtles examined were found to have plastic pollution inside their bodies. It is estimated that one million marine mammals and sea turtles and 100,000 seabirds are killed annually by plastic that has made its way to the ocean.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch sits swirling in the middle of the ocean right now. It is already twice the size of Texas and is estimated to double in size in the next ten years if we don’t change our ways. Unfortunately, the patch is too big for any technology known to man to make a dent in, so when a Dutch teenager named Boyan Slat figured out that 80% of the plastic that ends up in the ocean comes from 1000 rivers throughout the world, he created the “Interceptor”, a solar-powered barge that cleans up 50 tons of plastic per day from these waterways before it reaches the ocean.

Boy Genius

When Boyan Slat was younger he went on a family trip to Greece. While on the trip, he saw more plastic than fish in the ocean so he decided right then and there that he would do something about it. Two years later, he founded the non-profit organization The Ocean Cleanup.

He started by doing research to find out how much plastic was in the ocean. When he found out that 80% of the plastic that ends up in the ocean arrives there through just 1,000 rivers throughout the world, he invented a solar-powered barge that picks up 50,000 tons of plastic waste each day. His organization is on a path to put one trash-collecting barge into each of those rivers.

Solar Barges

The “Interceptor” is a 78-foot long barge resembling a houseboat, that runs on solar power. The barrier that catches the plastic curves so that the trash heading downstream is guided into the “mouth” of the boat where it is lifted up out of the water onto the boat by a conveyor belt to be sifted through later back on land. People then remove the recyclables from the trash to be recycled to continue the green effort.

How You Can Help

The Ocean Cleanup is hoping to build a barge for each of the 1000 most polluted rivers. As each “Interceptor” costs $775,000 USD to build, they are slowly but surely chugging toward that goal. You can help by donating to The Ocean Cleanup here, reducing, reusing and recycling, or simply by using more solar and less electricity. One way to reduce your carbon footprint is to get solar panels for your home. Sol-up has the best solar panel systems, installers, and warranties in Las Vegas. Contact us today for a free quote to see how you can help the environment and save money at the same time!

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