Cleaning up what’s in the ocean

Cleaning up millions of pounds of trash, mostly plastic, which have created an oceanic desert where only tiny phytoplankton can survive, is extremely critical. At least one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year due to plastic pollution. This so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has a horrendous environmental, economic and public health impact. The global impacts of this waste are estimated at roughly $13 trillion.  Ocean plastic does not disappear by itself so it has to be cleaned up. 

A Dutch startup called 'The Ocean Cleanup' developed the first feasible method to clean up world’s ocean garbage patches. They will begin next year to passively collect plastic debris in the waters specifically focusing on the North Pacific accumulation zone - also known as ‘the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ (between Japan and South Korea, near the island group of Tsushima).

They proposed to deploy a very long array of floating barriers attached to the seabed. This would act as an artificial coastline, allowing the ocean to clean itself. 'The Ocean Cleanup' aims to deploy the first pilot system in 2016, and hopes to be able to start cleaning the North Pacific by 2020. Read More

Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

The system will act as a barrier, trapping floating debris and allowing ships to pick it up using a conveyor belt 7,900 times faster than current methods, and at just 3 percent of the current cost. If deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for 10 years, the company says it could remove 42 percent of the trash, at a cost of around $5 a kilo. 

"By cleaning up what is out there right now, we also prevent the creation of more microplastics. Over time, in a process called photodegradation, UV radiation causes large plastic objects to fragment into ever smaller pieces. Not only are smaller pieces harder to extract, but they are also more harmful than large objects due to bioavailability to the small creatures that form the base of the marine food web. Small pieces are being consumed by fish and birds, and may thereby transport toxic persistent chemicals into the food chain (which includes us humans)." ..... from 'The Ocean Cleanup'
Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Renewable energy investment

Uruguay makes a dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy. The country is defining global trends in renewable energy investment.

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs. They have added Biomass and Solar power to their existing hydropower. The country relies on a mixture of energy resources including wind turbines, solar power, hydropower, and biomass. .....  this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%. 

Renewables provide 95% of the country’s electricity, and prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

According to Ramón Méndez, Uruguay’s head of climate policy - the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”

Méndez further attributes Uruguay’s success to the fact that investors have discovered clean energy makes good business sense. Uruguay’s state utility guarantees fixed energy prices for 20 years, which has encouraged foreign companies like the German wind power firm Enercon to build plants.  Read More

Influence of Drones

Drones are delivering the ability to transform wildlife conservation, illegal fishing patrols and detect illegal poachers from the air. Now these unmanned aerial vehicles look set to be a big boon in efforts to preserve, monitor, and restore rainforests around the world. Drones will be a game changer for tropical forest recovery and conservation, as many rainforest regions are difficult to access and many land owners are individual farmers who possess neither the time, the skill or the money. Read More


Drones are already proving incredibly efficient at aerial mapping on building sites, and they are forming an integral part of business operations for innovative construction firms the world over. A drone has a unique set of attributes that sets it apart from conventional construction machinery, unlike cranes, drones have the ability to reach any point in space. Drones can be a major contribution on the projects where labor is prohibitively expensive, or workers cannot go there.