Hundreds have been installed globally and are reported to have captured over 2.5 million kilograms of litter from calm sheltered environments such as marinas, ports and yacht clubs.
The Plymouth study found that a total of 1,828 items, 0.18kg of litter, was retained by a device installed on the city’s waterfront during 750 hours of operation between April and June 2021. This was equivalent to 58 items a day, but the device also captured one marine organism for every 3.6 items of litter.
In addition to the Seabin, the research published in One Earth highlights that in recent years several forms of cleanup devices have been developed to remove plastics from the environment.
Sieving vehicles are a common sight on tourist beaches, plastic trapping technologies have been deployed in harbours, and various types of booms, watercraft vehicles, bubble curtains, or receptacles have been positioned across rivers and estuaries.
In addition, there are innovations for the open ocean and the seabed that use combinations of towed nets, autonomous vessels and artificial intelligence.
However, the authors of the current paper say that even if these technologies were to show signs of being truly effective, they would barely scratch the surface of the global problem. Cleanup practices could also lead to greenwashing through new schemes to offset the use of plastics through plastic collection.
As a result, the international group is concerned that focusing too greatly on cleanup approaches will create more environmental risk, and be a distraction from the key priorities of the Plastic Treaty negotiations: plastic pollution prevention.
Bergmann M, Arp HPH, Carney Almroth B, et al. Moving from symptom management to upstream plastics prevention: The fallacy of plastic cleanup technology. One Earth
. 2023:S2590332223004979. doi: 10.1016/j.oneear.2023.10.022
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