Giving plastics collected from the ocean a ’second life’

Plastic has become a part of our lives over many years, but it can take hundreds of years for it to break down and is creating an environmental catastrophe, particularly in our oceans.

Most plastic waste ends up in our seas by being washed down rivers, as well as from shipping activity.

This global problem is being tackled in a two-pronged approach – stopping the plastic entering streams and rivers, and cleaning up the mess that has already been created.

The Ocean Cleanup is one initiative started in 2013 in response to the garbage patches which have gathered in different parts of our oceans.

There are five of them, the largest of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California. It is the size of France.

The Dutch non-profit environmental organisation aims to clean up 90 percent of plastic in our seas, using technology to do the hard work of concentrating the plastic on the surface by way of a long floating device and a “skirt” which hangs below in the water, to prevent debris from escaping.

It is anchored, and sea currents allow for the plastic to drift into the arc of floaters. Vessels are then used to collect the plastic waste that has been caught.

The challenge of cleaning up the plastic pollution is that it is spread across millions of square kilometres and travels in all directions.

The system has been hailed as a pioneering initiative and is already making an impact, while also inspiring others to come up with inventions that can solve a problem which affects our health and that of the environment.

Something good to come out of this plastic mess, is that Italian eyewear group Safilo has plans to launch a limited edition of sunglasses from plastic that has been hauled out of the Great Pacific Garbage patch, Reuters reports.

Angelo Trocchia, chief executive of Safilo, said manufacturing the sunglasses would “give a second life to the plastic collected from the ocean.”

Chief Executive of The Ocean Cleanup, Boyan Slat told Reuters: “We hope they serve as another way to increase global awareness of the urgent need to remove plastic from our aquatic ecosystems.”