Marine littering, the pollution of the world’s oceans, rovers, and lakes endanger the living organisms and is one of the greatest challenges for our global society. More than 140 million tons of plastic are already found in our world’s oceans, with about 8 million tons added each year. Up to 80 per cent of the marine waste has its origin ashore, about three quarters of it are made of plastic. If the pollution continues at the current pace, the seas will be completely covered in a few years. According to recent studies by the UN, by more plastic parts than fish will be floating in our seas by 2050.
Already today huge swarms of plastic waste are forming on the world’s oceans, the largest of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific, which already has the size of Central Europe, i.e. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Luxembourg, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Birds, fish and other creatures eat plastic parts and perish on their stomach clogged with garbage or by internal injuries. For over 40 per cent of whales, about 36 per cent of seabirds and almost all species of fish and sea turtles is scientifically documented to eat garbage. Other marine animals are tangle or strangled in old fishing nets, ropes or plastic films.
An even more serious anger to life in the oceans, as well as the health of man, is caused by the comminution of the plastic waste by surf and wave propagation to microplastics. Through the creeping action on the food chain, small plastic ingredients and their components (e.g., plasticizer) are harming humans and animals. The effects on human health have not yet been fully explored.
The UN has estimated an annual economic damage caused by plastic waste is to be at 13 billion US dollars. However, this does not take into account any consequential damage (for example by plastic in the food chain, etc.)
In addition to health threats to humans and animals, the garbage also has economic consequences: tourism is threatened as beaches are polluted, fishermen fight with plastic waste in their nets, garbage is caught in ship bolts, cooling water systems and desalination plants.
Plastic in the sea does not simply disappear, but has a lifespan of up to 450 years. The longer plastic is floating in the oceans, the more it crumbles through friction, salt water and UV radiation into ever smaller fragments (microplastics), which can be distributed everywhere in the sea and can not be removed. Sea animals mistake plastic parts for food and perish on it.
Through the creeping effect on the food chain, plastic components (for example, plasticizers) also threaten us humans.
The medium- to long-term effects of microplastics on humans and animals have not yet been adequately investigated, let alone that there are solutions for their elimination from the waters.
In addition to plastic waste, oil, chemicals and other pollutants pollute the water regularly. Crude oil, petroleum products or chemicals are transported into the sea by accidents such as oil tank anchors, ship operations and oil exploration. However, the world’s largest share of oil and chemicals contaminates the sea from land through river.
Chemical binders and so-called dispersants (for oil decomposition) are often used to fight oil accidents. Their residues however usually sink down the waters and can therefore endanger the entire ecosystem. OEOO is therefore working on processes, which remove oil and chemicals quickly, without residues and environmentally friendly.
One Earth – One Ocean has set itself a great goal: a “maritime garbage collection”. The aim is to clean the seas and inland waters from the plastic waste by means of specially developed catamarans of different sizes.