In 2001 I was awarded with the awesome opportunity to help deliver a 3-Masted Schooner sailboat from San Francisco to Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands. It was one of the craziest, times of my life, an experience I would do again in a heartbeat. During the adventure I was quite ignorant of the ocean’s beauty, and bounty. However, during the sail, we came across a floating island of trash. This garbage island was as far as the eye could see. The breathtaking contrast of the oceans beauty and the floating garbage is an image I wish I could forget. I couldn’t help but think if this is what I can see floating on top of the water how much is sinking or has already sunk. Therefore, reducing the packing waste in the world’s oceans is a topic I would thoroughly enjoy elaborating on.

The solution to this problem is not a complicated, as it only has two variables. The first variable is to determine and eliminate where most of the garbage is coming from, then establish a realistic approach to clean up the pollution already there. The number one polluter in the ocean is the large passenger vessels, or cruise ships. Problems that people can’t see typically get swept under the rug, and unfortunately there is not enough light, and therefore public interest on how much trash is being littered by these ships. For example, every cruise ship has a complete remodel overhaul every 2 to 3 years. During the overhaul they take the ship out to international waters and completely gut the ship. The demolition crew removes all interior, carpet, cabinets, cabins, lounging areas, bars, and restaurants, you name it, it gets tossed overboard. Then they bring the ship to dry dock and install all new material resulting in the breath-taking public spaces where people want to relax for weeks on end. Most of those passenger vessels have 3,4, and sometimes 5 decks for cabins and entertainment, and there are hundreds of them in service at any given time. Just imagine the millions of metric tons of pollution they contribute when they all get gutted every 2 to 3 years. Therefore, the first step is collaborated G-7 commitment to regulate waste dumping by all the large passenger vessels and cruise ships. Now we get to the second variable, removing the pollution that is already there. Most of the pollution in the sea is a material called polyurethanes. This type of trash includes anything made of or from plastic, and plastic takes an eternity to biodegrade. Therefore, the second variable is to unleash the microbial bacteria known as Pseudomonas sp. TDA1. This bacterium can biodegrade the plastic that is currently out there.

The solution to the problem sounds easy once the variables are identified. However, sadly there isn’t enough public interest behind finding a solution. Perhaps all it requires is a drone or helicopter to take pictures of the ships polluting and a picture of the floating island of trash. Then let is go viral on the internet. Until it is clearly visible by the masses the problems that people can’t see typically get swept under the rug.

Essay by: Matthew Garner
Portland State University

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