Every day, several plastic bottles, detergent bottles, fishing nets and crockery accumulate in our seas, starting a slow process of degradation that will take more than 1000 years to stop. These wastes are carried away by the currents and inexorably damage the ecosystems on which we depend. In addition, the plastic reaches us, because of those small fragments and microplastics that enter the food chain that goes from plankton to fishes and from fishes to us.
Only by knowing and identifying the materials that are harmful to everyone’s health we can promote and implement policies to prevent the problem of waste accumulation and to intervene for its disposal.
WASTE DISPOSAL AT SEA: PLASTIC ALARM
Did you know that 50% of the plastic objects found on the European beaches are disposable? Every year in the world 280 million tons of plastic are produced, and this number will double in 2050,bringing untold damage to flora and fauna. The Mediterranean Sea pays the highest price, being a semi-closed sea in which flows also the rubbish coming from the rivers.
Producing degradable plastic and reviewing our bad habits is the precious contribution that those who love the sea can give and want to do their part to guarantee the correct disposal and recycling of waste at sea. By 2030 all the plastic on the European Union market must be reusable at sustainable costs or recycled. However, how will it be possible to clean up what has been polluted so far and to intervene on those sea activities that produce waste? Certainly, concrete intervention on specific policies and management methods are needed. However, experimental initiatives such as the “Tuscan Archipelago” project, which brings together co-financiers and those who have responsibilities in the stages following the collection of waste at sea by fishermen, from the storage phase to the disposal and subsequent waste recycling. The result? Twenty kilos of waste were recovered every day, for a total of 230 kilos of garbage during the first 15 days of project.
ITALY: PROVISIONS FOR THE COLLECTION OF WASTE AT SEA AND FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT
Plastics are the main components of marine waste, which is estimated to represent up to 85% of marine litter found along the coasts, on the surface of the sea and on the ocean floor. The size of the problem of waste at sea and along the coasts becomes more and more significant and regards directly the governments around the world.
At the national level, Italy has adopted some initiatives aimed at reducing plastics and marine litter. First of all, the legislation on the prohibition of the use of non-biodegradable shoppers and the measure relating to the identification of seaports with suitable sites in which start the management of the waste collected during fishing activities and underwater tourism.
The measures also include the implementation of information and awareness-raising activities (fishing for litter) addressed to all the actors involved in the entire fishery and aquaculture supply chain to prevent the formation of marine litter.
EUROPE: PROVISIONS FOR THE COLLECTION OF WASTE AT SEA AND FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT
In order to curb the consumption of disposable plastic and the marine litter, the European Union has issued a directive on the reduction of certain plastic products, a directive that must be implemented by the member countries by 2021 and that applies to disposable plastic products, oxodegradable and to fishing gear containing plastic.
The rules also provide for the adoption of measures to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic products and prohibit their placing on the market, in particular with regard to cotton buds, plates and cutlery, straws, drink stirrers, food and beverage containers and relative caps and lids. The directive foresees the inclusion of “accidentally caught waste”, which in turn is defined as “waste collected by the nets during fishing operations”.
Since the waste dispersed in the marine environment comes mainly from activities carried out on the mainland and are due to the scarcity of infrastructures for the management of solid waste, as well as to the dispersion of waste by the citizens and the scarce public awareness, specific measures must be defined in waste prevention and management programmes.
SEA EAGLE PROJECT: MONITORING MARINE AREAS AND WASTE DISPOSAL
To do this, IPPO Engineering has created Sea Eagle, a project that aims to use drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and image analysis software that identify and monitor marine areas with greater accumulation of waste, with the aim of determining intervention actions for their disposal.
Through this system, it is possible to remotely assess the presence of marine litter in the coasts, as well as the composition in fractions and objects. This also makes it possible to monitor remote or inaccessible areas and to identify the areas of greatest accumulation of waste, to then determine the most appropriate prevention and mitigation activities.
In addition, the project foresees the integration of intervention actions that allow the collection of waste both from the sea surface and from the coast and their storage in containers placed on support vessels or at collection points on the mainland.
Finally, the development of autonomous flight algorithms helps to minimize human intervention and consequently reduce the overall costs associated with the monitoring and collection service.
Overall, this innovative tool is able to contribute considerably to the global challenge related to marine waste and to the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems. The marine litter in question are products resulting from human activities that take place both on land and at sea and that accumulate in the marine environment.
Several activities that take place on land and at sea can cause the production of solid waste that can enter the marine environment directly or reach it indirectly through rivers, drains and because of the wind. The accumulation of waste in specific marine areas can therefore be determined also by the currents and by the persistence and resistance of the material to decompose.
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