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 Milestone

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

Meet the Junior Enterprise network at JEWC 2014!

Monday’s Daily Brief: Independent UN experts on Myanmar, UN chief renounces attacks in US, Libyan airport violence, UN spokesperson on Kashmir, and FAO and Italy on development

COVID-19: How leaders can create a new and better normal

EU Banks still get subsidies from impoverished citizens

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Nets’ account-to-account payment business by Mastercard, subject to conditions

The European Union and Central Asia: New opportunities for a stronger partnership

‘Path to peace’ on Korean Peninsula only possible through diplomacy and full denuclearization: US tells Security Council

COVID-19’s isolated world is the norm for people for disabilities

Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to O2 CZ, CETIN and T-Mobile CZ for their network sharing agreement

Capitalism’s greatest weakness? It confuses price with value

Car clocking: MEPs call for new legislation to combat odometer fraud

Renovation Wave: doubling the renovation rate to cut emissions, boost recovery and reduce energy poverty

Young people all over the world come together to demand paid good quality internships

This is how social media giants are helping stop the spread of measles

‘Terror and panic’ among Rohingya who may be forced to return to Myanmar – UN rights chief

More ambition needed for EU recovery instruments, says majority of MEPs

Digital learning can help us close the global education gap. This is how

UN mission welcomes Afghan government’s announcement of Eid holiday ceasefire

GSMA Reveals Shortlist For 2019 Asia Mobile Awards

DR Congo President and UN chief meet at a ‘historic moment’ for democracy in the country

More unemployment and lower wages to make European workers competitive?

The eyes of Brazil and the world turn to the largest rainforest and largest biodiversity reserve on Earth #PrayForAmazonia.

COVID-19 is an unmissable chance to put people and the planet first

EU-UK: A deal synonymous to ‘remain’, England pays the Irish price

UN agency chiefs issue ‘call to action’ on behalf of refugee children

UN chief highlights action across borders for ‘stable and prosperous Eurasia’

Yemen: ‘No justification for this carnage,’ says UNICEF chief, as children in need now outnumber population of Switzerland

Staying home? Here are 5 exercise tips from the World Health Organization

Violence against women a barrier to peaceful future for all

Eurozone: How can 200 banks find €400 billion?

Which role does art play in the COVID-19 pandemic?

EU mobilises immediate support for its Western Balkan partners to tackle coronavirus

It’s 100 years since US women got the right to vote, but how has gender equality changed?

These are the cities where people work the longest hours

Parliament sets conditions on EU-China investment deal

We need to protect 30% of the planet by 2030. This is how we can do it

Parliament compromises on Banking Union but sends market abusers to jail

Students & Allies Unite Globally To Launch #Students_Against_COVID

How many websites are there?

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

E-Government can be a remedy for the crisis

Can India reduce deaths on one hazardous road to zero? This group is trying

UN mourns death of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, ‘a guiding force for good’

Tax Inspectors Without Borders making significant progress toward strengthening developing countries’ ability to effectively tax multinational enterprises

Presentation of Juncker’s Investment Plan: Can 315 billion euros save the EU?

London to say hello or goodbye to Brussels this week

The Chinese spirit

Is your business model fit for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Australia wants to build a giant underground ‘battery’ to help power the nation

COVID-19 is widening the education gap. This is how we can stop it

Telemedicine in medical practices and its contribution to quality and accessibility to care

Business leaders must now turn positive ESG talk into long-term results

We need to change the fast fashion model. Here’s how

Report on EU trade defence – effective protection against unfair trade

Commission’s report shows that targeted investment and robust digital policies boost Member States’ performance

The new European Union of banks is ready

A digital tax sounds like a great idea. Here’s why it might not be universally popular

JADE Team at the European Business Summit 2017

Countries must make teaching profession more financially and intellectually attractive

Do we need a new Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after COVID-19?

More Stings?

Advertising

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