Focus on coasts to clean up plastics in ocean

London, Jan 19 (IANS) The most efficient way to clean up plastics floating in the oceans is to place plastic collectors near coasts, suggests a new study.

The study shows that targeting the Great Pacific garbage patch is not the right and effective way to cleaning up the widespread and increasing problem in the oceans that is also harming the ecosystems, the researchers said.

“It makes sense to remove plastics where they first enter the oceans around dense coastal economic and population centre,” said Erik van Sebille from Grantham Institute, Imperial College London in Britain.

The study proposes a system of floating barriers and platforms near the coastline to concentrate and collect plastics and finally remove them.

For a ten-year project between 2015 and 2025, placing collectors near coasts, particularly around China and the Indonesian islands, would remove 31 per cent of microplastics, the study said.

The study also looked at areas where microplastics overlapped with phytoplankton — microscopic floating plants that form the basic food of many ocean ecosystems.

Many microplastics enter the food web in these areas as microscopic animals accidentally eat them.

Great Pacific garbage patch is an area of the open ocean in the North Pacific with an unusually large collection of microscopic plastics and is enclosed by ocean currents.

The patch gained international attention, and a project called ‘The Ocean Cleanup’ has been set up to deploy plastic collectors to clean up the region.

The researchers used a model of ocean plastic movements to determine the best places to deploy plastic collectors to remove the large amount of microplastics, and to prevent the great harm to the wildlife and ecosystems.

“The Great Pacific garbage patch has a huge mass of microplastics, but the largest flow of plastics is actually off the coasts, where it enters the oceans,” said, Peter Sherman, an undergraduate physics student from Imperial College London.

“We need to clean up ocean plastics, and ultimately this should be achieved by stopping the source of pollution,” said he added.

The study is published today in Environmental Research Letters.

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