Trash accumulates in 5 ocean garbage patches, the largest one being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California. If left to circulate, the plastic will impact our ecosystems, health and economies. Solving it requires a combination of closing the source, and cleaning up what has already accumulated in.
Ocean garbage patches are vast and dispersed
Ocean currents concentrate plastic in five areas in the world: the subtropical gyres, also known as the world’s "ocean garbage patches". Once in these patches, the plastic will not go away by itself. The challenge of cleaning up the gyres is the plastic pollution spreads across millions of square kilometers and travels in all directions. The Ocean Clean-Up is a global effort to cleanup what is already there.
The amounts of trash entering our oceans from inland sources is staggering. And it’s getting worse. There are multiple fronts in the battle to combat this environmental disaster. The Ocean Clean-Up is a global initiative using to capture the millions of tons of trash already in the oceans.
Almost all research on plastic contamination in water systems focuses on oceans. But according to NTNU biologist Martin Wagner, an associate professor at NTNU’s Department of Biology, “it’s not the plastic in the oceans we should be worrying about the most,” but the stuff that ends up in rivers and lakes.”
Land-based sources, as opposed to marine-based sources, are considered the dominant input of plastics into oceans. By capturing litter in our inland waterways, we have the ability to take this material out of the ecosystem before it has a chance to break down into the damaging micro-plastics that are so damaging to the environment.
In 2019, Worthington created The Worthington Clean River Initiative. The WCRI is a company-wide effort focused advocating, educating and collaborating with a goal of reducing land based litter by capturing floating trash and debris while still in a macro stage. This starts at our dams, rivers and canals. Already we have provided financial support to The Living Lands and Waters project (livinglandsandwaters.org) to support their efforts at removing trash at the source.
Worthington Products, as part of its engineering/design capabilities, has powerful Flow-3D modeling software and even more powerful computers to run complex flow models. When not being used to model debris, ice and water loads for client boom projects, we use this capability to further refine our understanding of how floating trash migrates on the water with the aim to develop improved collection and removal systems.
One initial result of our understanding of fine floating debris was the development of totally closed system boom lines that eliminated any gap between floats to capture the thousands of plastic bottles and smaller floating litter. That’s just the beginning. Using our worldwide 18-year experience designing and installing debris control systems we have shown how effective surface booms are at capturing large volumes of plastics and other forms of trash ranging from small pieces, up to large debris, including massive items like washing machines and automobiles.
Worthington has worked with governmental agencies, conservation authorities and NGO’s to design, deliver, and install river cleanup systems in other countries as well. Although still in its infancy, successful projects have taken place in the USA, Panama, Turkey and the Dominican Republic.
The chart on the right shows a study conducted in Malaysia over a ten-year period on the lifespan of debris and trash that comes into their waterways. We need to act now.
Examine your own water conveyance and retention structures (dams, powerplants, irrigation canals, public waterways) to begin assessing composition of debris buildup.
Conduct an audit on the types (organic, inorganic) and amounts of trash that accumulates over time.
Evaluate your debris and trash procedures. Are you passing debris and trash downstream for others to deal with or do you have debris and trash retention/collection systems (log booms, skimmer boats, trash-racks & trash rakes) in place.
Discuss with your corporate environmental and corporate stewardship people about how your company can educate the public on the impacts of trash in our waterways and to develop a company-wide approach that would include, outreach, education and physical controls such as barriers and removal systems.
Get buy-in from senior levels of management, internal environmental and safety departments as well as public relations personnel about the im- portance of proactively contributing towards clean waterways.
Worthington has a team of dedicated barrier and floating trash experts ready to answer your questions and guide you on your path to contributing towards a better environment. Call us today to discuss your debris and trash problems or to schedule a site visit by one of our technical experts.