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Ocean Cleanup Nonprofit Gets $25Mil From Airbnb Co-Founder to Launch Massive Plastic Pollution Cleanup

in Enviroment 178 views

The co-founder of Airbnb.org has just donated $25 million to support the Dutch nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup as they prepare to assemble and deploy the largest plastic capture system ever developed for use in the ocean.

The Ocean Cleanup’s pilot-scale ocean cleaning system, System 002, has been deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) located between Hawai’i and California since late 2021. It has so far removed close to 200,000 kilograms, or roughly 440,000 pounds, of plastic that otherwise would have remained trapped for decades or more.

This pilot system is now in the process of being scaled up to the largest, most cost-effective ocean cleaning system ever developed, and will feature a capture area 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) across, and a three-vessel team that will allow it to operate 24-7.

“I’m proud to partner with The Ocean Cleanup in their crucial work to remove harmful plastics from our oceans,” said Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb and Samara. “The Ocean Cleanup has created systems and technology that actually work at scale. In order for them to deploy across our oceans and rivers, they now need to scale their funding. It is my hope that this donation can inspire others to act.”

As the only group currently cleaning the trillions of plastic pieces in the GPGP, The Ocean Cleanup has streamlined their cleaning systems to be as cost-effective as possible, allowing their entirely not-for-profit income generation and any potential donations to go far.

Dutch wiz kid and Ocean Cleanup founder Boyan Slat has been developing the capture system for a decade, and has gradually enlarged and improved it based on fieldwork harvesting plastic from the GPGP. System 03, cleans ten times faster than the previous system and could clean all the plastic patches of the world’s oceans with about 10-50 systems.

“Joe’s continued support of The Ocean Cleanup’s mission has a direct impact on our operations all over the world,” said Slat. “Thanks, in part, to his generous assistance, we are able to scale up our work in oceans and rivers, helping us reach our goal of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic. On behalf of the world’s largest ecosystem, we are immensely grateful for the support.”

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Turning Problematic Sea Algae into Replacement for Plastic in Common Products

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After a Finnish scuba diver saw how harmful out-of-control algae blooms could be to the marine environment below their green clouds, she founded a refining company that harvests the algae and turns it into all kinds of products.

Certain components of algae have similarities to petroleum-based chemicals, and this similarity allows for the replication of existing production techniques for cosmetics, artificial textiles, detergents, packaging materials, fertilizer as well as a variety of different foodstuffs.

Mari Granström enjoyed scuba diving in her native Baltic Sea, until nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients from fertilizers used in the farming industries, washed from the fields into the rivers, and then from the rivers to the sea, began to regularly create “eutrophication” or vast blooms of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae.

Similar eutrophication events were going on in the Caribbean, Granström learned, which choke the oxygen and light from the waters underneath the floating algae, and damage marine ecosystems in the same way giant volcanic ash clouds have damaged terrestrial ecosystems in the past by blotting out the sun.

Granström, a bio-chemist by trade, started Origin by Ocean (ObO) as a means to combat this problem and offer the world more

“We wanted to do something to help at both ends of the process, upstream and downstream, as it were—cleaning the seas, but also monetizing a change in consumer behavior,” said Granström, who adds that anyone can make a difference in solving this problem simply by changing their consumption choices.

Their special technology vacuums up the algae and separates it from the water.

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Australia Sets Aside 30% of Land Mass to Protect its Unique Species

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Joining the United States and a number of other countries, Australian officials have committed to preserve 30% of the continent’s landmass in a natural state for conservation.

The news was announced Tuesday from Environment Minster Tanya Plibersek, as part of a program called the Threatened Species Action Plan: Towards Zero Extinctions.

By prioritizing 110 species and 20 places, the plan will drive action where it is needed most and will deliver knock-on benefits to other threatened plants and animals in the same habitats.

The plan is the Australian counterpart to the “30×30” initiative that is trending among countries, and which arose out of the COP26 commitments to preserve 30% of lands and waters by 2030.

One of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth, so many of Australia’s animals, particularly her mammals, are found nowhere else on our planet.

“The Threatened Species Action Plan strengthens our commitment to stopping the extinction of Australia’s plants and animals,” said Plibersek. “Based on input from researchers and experts from the community, this plan identifies 20 priority places and 110 priority species and will guide recovery actions that will benefit a broad range of threatened species and their habitats.”

The plan was announced alongside 20 listings of species and 3 of ecosystems on the nation’s threatened list, and AUD$224 million – USD$146 million in total funding to protect them.

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New state curriculum teaches ways to reduce impacts of plastic pollution

in Enviroment/Local News 360 views

WATERTOWN — A new curriculum published by New York Sea Grant focuses on environmental stewardship and curbing plastic pollution.

“Plastic Pollution and You” is a 126-page, 15-lesson curriculum focused on a human-induced threat to the health of New York’s marine and freshwater aquatic ecosystems.

The curriculum is designed to be appropriate for multiple grade levels, meets state and Next Generation Learning Standards, and aligns with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, New York Ocean Action Plan and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program initiatives in New York’s coastal regions.

The curriculum is co-authored by Kathleen Fallon, a coastal processes and hazards specialist with New York Sea Grant, and Nate W. Drag, New York Sea Grant Great Lakes literacy specialist and Great Lakes Program associate director at the University at Buffalo.

“There’s a lot of curriculum and activities around trash and plastic once it gets in the water and where it can impact animals,” Mr. Drag said. “We wanted to build on that to bring it back to the individuals and the humans that really are the source of this problem, but also potentially the solution.”

He said one of his favorite parts of the curriculum is that it’s statewide, and his summer 2022 teach-the-teachers professional development workshops include at least one lesson from the Plastic Pollution and You curriculum. On the Sea Grant website, where educators can access the free curriculum, there’s a request form that teachers fill out so the organization can understand who’s using the curriculum, where they are geographically, and can follow up with them to ask questions.

“I think in general, it’s a really accessible and relatable issue to get kids into environmental topics,” Mr. Drag said. “Plastic is something that we all use every day and unfortunately, litter and trash is something that we see almost every day as well. We want them to be empowered to feel like it’s not completely hopeless, because it’s really not, but it takes all of us to do some work on an individual level, on a community level, and then on a society level.”

In addition to several teachers from across New York, representatives from DEC, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Michigan State University Extension, Maryland and New York Sea Grant programs, and Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker participated in reviewing the curriculum. Among the educators who participated in the review were Fred O. Kowanes of P.V. Moore High School in Central Square; Heather Haskins of Trinity Catholic School in Oswego; Lindsey Steblen and Andrea Inserra of the Indian River Central School District; and Janet M. Burrows, a retired teacher from Thousand Islands.

Mr. Kowanes, a New York state master teacher and science department coordinator for Central Square schools, has already used the curriculum with his classes. He said they analyzed samples from Southwick Beach State Park, a private beach, and Black Creek Preserve using USB microscopes and said it was “eye-opening” for him and the students when they saw the amount of plastics, particularly in the preserve’s sample.

“It’s certainly an issue that we’ve talked about in my class as a current events kind of issue, but I had wanted to bring it into my course this year,” Mr. Kowanes said. “I think a lot of my kids aren’t even aware of plastic pollution; they’re always carrying their disposable water bottles, and so when we started looking at some of these things, they got really interested and it sparked a lot of conversation in class.”

The Plastic Pollution and You lessons and activities urge students to think about what plastic is, how they use it, and about the consequences of plastic pollution in the environment. They learn about different types of plastics, their impact on marine and freshwater ecosystems, and about the recycling process and trash capture technology.

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