We've become a “disposable” society; plastic bags, cups, utensils, and containers now make up a huge percentage of the garbage in landfills today. Much of those plastics end up in our oceans to form giant garbage patches, like one known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And while we’ve made strides to reduce waste by reusing and recycling, the use of plastic bags is still on the rise in developing countries. We may have reached a threshold to where there may be no point of return. However, hope is on the rise.
In recent scientific news, 19-year old Boyan Slat has devised a way to clean up the oceanic plastic pollution problem. His idea of capturing plastics could theoretically remove the debris within the next ten years. Once collected, we would use existing technology to convert plastics into fuel. That’s when I got an idea. Perhaps we could utilize the waste in a different manner first.
The polar ice caps are melting, and without the reflective nature of ice, more of the deep dark oceans absorb light, which raises ocean temperatures. Warmer climate trends mean all living creatures including humans will be affected. As sea levels rise, we’ll see more coastal erosion, extreme weather patterns, and we’ll see the extinction of a variety of species on an epic scale.
There is a relatively new field in science known as biomimicry . From bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate, this discipline takes design queues from nature to help solve human problems, such as a solar cell inspired by a leaf. Here is my idea. What if we had a means to convert the collected plastic debris into artificial “ice sheets” to be used as temporary ice flows in the Arctic Circle? Reflect that light and heat back out and reduce the rate of oceanic warming. My idea is akin to creating a skin graft or bandage for a burn victim, only in this case the planet is the victim. The graft would be used only long enough to allow nature to recover or “heal” if you will. Once the climate stabilized we then could look to possibly converting those plastics into fuel.
Regardless of what side of the climate change debate one is on, we can all agree that this humble little planet is our only home. It seems only fitting we should leave it better than we found it for future generations to enjoy.
Photo credit: Ferdi Rizkiyanto