Mumbai Beach clean-up highlights marine waste epidemic

The shocking amount of marine waste washed up on Mumbai's Versova Beach led UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh to publicize a long-term cleanup project. Mountains of garbage, mostly plastic, have been hauled away by thousands of volunteers.

The project is now in week 44. More interesting coverage online at #MumbaiBeachClean mumbai-beach

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  1. You mean like... burning it?

    "Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel

    Date:
    February 12, 2014
    Source:
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Summary:
    Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report. The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels -- diesel, for example -- that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. "

    Dislaimer: Nobody says that will not contribute to global greenhouse emissions.

  2. As I understand it, most of the crap that's waste from the ocean is polyethylene and polypropylene that have been heavily degraded by UV and have a lot of accretions from their time in the ocean. They're not recyclable as plastic (even if they were really clean, it's not economically feasible), though you could burn them with a lot of air pollution, or use industrial processes to pull the hydrocarbons out to repurpose, though the polluted plastic you're putting in is more expensive to process.

  3. As I inexpertly understand it, dissolving plastic and Styrofoam takes an extreme pH level, which then has to be filtered and heavily diluted before returning to the water table or bodies of water lest is obliterate the ecosystem. The whole process is apparently quite the ecological catastrophe, so it mostly doesn't happen. Incineration, as you say, would flood the air with toxic chemicals, and is probably illegal in most places.

    While half my tech and most vehicles would basically disintegrate, I'm wondering if the biohacker who releases the first plastovore microbe won't be doing the planet a net favor, though the the law of unintended consequences could prove me very wrong.

  4. As industry apologists are constantly telling us, there is simply no substitute for plastics' usefulness and versatility. Yet all that yummy awesomeness comes at a cost. It's quite nicely externalized, so the ones making the plastic and profiting from the plastic are not liable for the costs. And as long as that remains true, there's no economic incentive to come up with a market-friendly way to mitigate these costs.

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