5 inventions that could transform the health of our ocean

oceans

(Anastasia Taioglou, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Harry Kretchmer, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • The ocean is estimated to contain at least 86 million tonnes of plastic waste, as well as chemical and other pollutants.
  • Fishing debris turned into sunglasses and deep sea robots collecting pollution data are some of the innovations that could help clean up our seas.
  • Sustainability is high on leaders’ agenda as nations and businesses consider whether ‘green growth’ will form part of COVID-19 recovery plans.

A garbage truckful – every minute. That’s how much plastic waste is being dumped in the ocean. And that’s just the plastics – chemicals and sewage are also major concerns.

But the problem is inspiring innovators to create ingenious solutions – both to capture and repurpose marine plastics, and to measure the scale of pollution in new ways.

 

And the need for such ideas is acute: a study undertaken by the World Economic Forum and partners has found that – without action – by 2050, the weight of plastics in the ocean could be greater than the weight of fish.

It’s a good time to look at green innovations, with many, including the Forum, advocating for businesses and governments to put sustainability at the heart of a COVID-19 recovery strategy.

1. Upcycling plastic waste

They call it ‘ghost gear:’ the estimated 640,000 tonnes of old fishing ropes, lines and nets that’s discarded or lost every year. According to Greenpeace, it’s one of the ocean’s worst forms of plastic pollution because of its powers to ensnare almost anything, from crustaceans to whales.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the ocean?

Our oceans cover 70% of the world’s surface and account for 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. We can’t have a healthy future without healthy oceans – but they’re more vulnerable than ever because of climate change and pollution.

Tackling the grave threats to our oceans means working with leaders across sectors, from business to government to academia.

The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute, convenes the Friends of Ocean Action, a coalition of leaders working together to protect the seas. From a programme with the Indonesian government to cut plastic waste entering the sea to a global plan to track illegal fishing, the Friends are pushing for new solutions.

Climate change is an inextricable part of the threat to our oceans, with rising temperatures and acidification disrupting fragile ecosystems. The Forum runs a number of initiatives to support the shift to a low-carbon economy, including hosting the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, who have cut emissions in their companies by 9%.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

Ocean Action Hub reports on two ventures that are trying to turn this waste into something useful. California-based startup, Bureo – which has found a way to turn this waste into desirable products including skateboards and sunglasses – is literally closing the net on the problem.

 plastic plastics oceans underwater water conservation conservationist habitat cages growth coral rejuvenation climate change environment environmental fish mammals environment renewable solar energy change transition friendly environment carbon footprint carbon emissions reduction change natural climate change global warming air pollution clean energy power renewables
Bionic’s ocean-recovered plastic polymers can be used in a wide range of products.
Image: BIONIC

Another solution comes from the marine clean-up initiative, Parley. It sweeps the ocean for plastics which are turned into yarn by manufacturer Bionic.

2. Underwater robots

This September, what could be the future of shipping will cross the Atlantic: a fully autonomous craft called the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) – named in honour of the boat that carried English settlers to the New World 400 years ago.

Using AI and ‘research pods’ from the University of Plymouth, the solar-powered MAS will run experiments to monitor sea mammals and marine microplastics.

 plastic plastics oceans underwater water conservation conservationist habitat cages growth coral rejuvenation climate change environment environmental fish mammals environment renewable solar energy change transition friendly environment carbon footprint carbon emissions reduction change natural climate change global warming air pollution clean energy power renewables
Data collected by these autonomous vehicles could help make better ecological decisions about our ocean.
Image: Terradepth

It’s not just the MAS team who are exploring new ways to collect ocean data. Terradepth, a start-up based in Texas, US, has created what sounds like a vision from science fiction: a fleet of autonomous underwater robots. The company hopes to demonstrate its technology this summer.

While Terradepth robots are likely to be hired for a range of mapping and scanning purposes, they also promise to help customers “make informed, ecologically responsible decisions regarding the world’s ocean.”

Plastic

What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Contact us to join the partnership.

3. Plastic dams

Some of the most effective ways of capturing plastic waste are as far from robotics as you can get. One such solution is ‘biofencing’. This can be as simple as plastic bottles meshed together to form barriers that trap waste – often other plastics.

The waste can then be disposed of properly at recycling plants – and provide an income for local people.

How UpLink is helping to find innovations to solve challenges like this

UpLink is a digital platform to crowdsource innovations in an effort to accelerate the delivery of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It is an open platform designed to engage anyone who wants to offer a contribution for the global public good. The core objective is to link up the best innovators to networks of decision-makers, who can implement the change needed for the next decade. As a global platform, UpLink serves to aggregate and guide ideas and impactful activities, and make connections to scale-up impact.

Hosted by the World Economic Forum, UpLink is being designed and developed in collaboration with Salesforce, Deloitte and LinkedIn.

UpLink is currently running the Ocean Solutions Sprint, a contest to surface the best innovations for crucial ocean challenges. Visit UpLink to sign up, explore and endorse the contributions which you think will deliver the most impact!

4. Waste drones

Not all waste can be captured by biofencing. In more congested settings like harbours and ports, devices like the WasteShark are arriving. This water-based drone – created by Dutch technology company, RanMarine – hoovers up plastics as well as biowastes and other debris.

Designed to operate mainly in waterways, the WasteShark allows customers to monitor the marine environment, and “create an accurate picture of the water’s DNA over time”.

The drones can carry up to 200 litres of waste, can operate in swarms, and return periodically to pods where they charge themselves.

5. Plastic bag campaigns

More than 100 nations have now banned plastic bags, with Africa one of the most committed continents. Some of the campaigns that led to bans have started small and were years in the making.

In 2018, the Indonesian Island of Bali banned single-use plastic bags. The move was due in large part to a long campaign by two teenage sisters from the country who have since gone on to inspire others around the world.

In 2013, Melati and Isabel Wijsen, then aged just 10 and 12, founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags – an NGO with a mission to fight the island’s plastic pollution problem. Today, Bye Bye Plastic Bags is a global movement, with 50 teams around the world educating tens of thousands of schoolchildren about the problems of plastic waste.

The World Economic Forum’s Virtual Ocean Dialogues takes place from 1-5 June. You can follow it here.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Training for staff in early childhood education and care must promote practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being

These countries have the most nuclear reactors

Record numbers of people in the UK have applied to study nursing

The British “nonsense”, the relaxed Commissioner and the TTIP “chiaroscuro” at this week’s Council

‘A trusted voice’ for social justice: Guterres celebrates 100 years of the International Labour Organization

Kids who live in the countryside have better motor skills, a study in Finland has found

“No labels for entrepreneurs!”, a young business leader from Italy cries out

Code of Practice on disinformation: Commission welcomes new prospective signatories and calls for strong and timely revision

No way out for Eurozone’s stagnating economy

South Sudan: UN calls for end to inter-communal clashes, attacks against aid workers

Here’s why human-robot collaboration is the future of manufacturing

JADE Spring Meeting 2017– day 1: Excellence awards, panel discussion, keynote speeches

EC v Samsung: A whole year to compile a case

Can medical students be prepared for Global Health ethical issues?

UN rights chief ‘strongly’ condemns ‘shocking’ mass executions in Saudi Arabia

Countries are piling on record amounts of debt amid COVID-19. Here’s what that means

Young activists do the talking as UN marks World Children’s Day

Some endangered languages manage to thrive. Here’s how

Irish Presidency: Not a euro more for EU budgets

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission decides to register ‘Right to Cure’ initiative

7 ways to break the fast fashion habit – and save the planet

Global warming: our responsibility

COVID-19 has hit Black Americans hardest. Healing this divide would lift the nation

Will COVID-19 usher in a new culture of outdoor living and dining?

From Hangzhou to Rwanda: how Jack Ma brought Chinese e-commerce to Africa

Indonesian tsunami death toll climbs over 400 as Government-led relief efforts are stepped up

The importance of including palliative care in the Universal Health Coverage and how to achieve it

5 Ways Companies Can Progress More Women into Leadership Roles

Health Care Workers’ Safety and Health as Assets in the Fight Against COVID-19

GSMA announces speakers for Mobile 360 Series-West Africa

This is how we make basic income a reality

Revealed: danger and squalor for cleaners who remove human waste by hand

‘Global trust’ declining, ‘our world needs stepped-up global leadership’

UN Envoy ‘confident’ deal can be reached to avert further violence around key Yemeni port city

EU boosts humanitarian aid budget for 2021 as needs rise

The final countdown towards achieving the 2030 Agenda: the contribution of future health(care) professionals

Vaccine nationalism – and how it could affect us all

Investing in health workers yields ‘triple dividend’, WHO chief says in New Year’s message

Palliative care and Universal Health Coverage: how to advocate for the inclusion of palliative care in UHC

Commission (Eurostat) publishes first statistics on short-stay accommodation booked via collaborative economy platforms

Overcoming the paralysis of trust management across a fractured IT landscape

AI can help us unlock the world’s most complex operating system – the human body

Human rights breaches in Eritrea, Nicaragua and Saudi Arabia

Cross-border travel is confusing after COVID – this framework can help borders reopen safely

EU car manufacturers worry about an FTA with Japan

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Cutting emissions, one bog at a time

Artificial Intelligence in policing: safeguards needed against mass surveillance

World Cancer Day: Here’s how perceptions about the disease differ around the world

Italy’s rescue operation Mare Nostrum shuts down with no real replacement. EU’s Triton instead might put lives at risk

Europe bows to Turkey’s rulers, sends Syrian refugees back to chaos

Global Citizen-Volunteer Internships

Mobile World Congress 2021: Barcelona 08 June-01 July

Darfur peace process at a ‘standstill’ as demonstrations against Sudanese Government continue

Achieving targets on energy helps meet other Global Goals, UN forum told

When Can Everyone Pluck the Grapes?

These vending machines are giving out free short stories to London commuters

Brexit casts a shadow over the LSE – Deutsche Börse merger: a tracer of how or if brexit is to be implemented

There’s a single-use plastic you’ll throw away today without realising

Malaria could be gone by the middle of the century. Here’s how

Impact of high-fats food regimen on immune activity, tumor growth.

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: