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How To Rid The Sea & oceans Of Plastic

How To Rid on oceansA 37-foot gray whale died after getting stranded on a west Seattle beach. Biologists who examined the whale found a significant amount of garbage in the whale’s stomach, including towels, duct tape, surgical gloves, sweat pants, a golf ball, and, shockingly, 20 plastic bags! Unfortunately, finding deceased marine life with a stomach’s full of what you might find in your trash and recycle bins is not uncommon. According to experts, we have a “trash island” in the Pacific bigger than the size of the United States. It was announced that we now have a second marine garbage patch in the Atlantic.


While we might be quick to point our fingers at fishermen and boaters, it’s estimated that only 20 percent of ocean debris is from sea-based sources, the rest comes from those of us on land. Living in coastal California, we need to be conscious of the fact that every item that blows off our picnic table or goes down our storm drains could potentially end up in the ocean. The California Coastal Commission reports that close to 90 percent of floating marine debris is plastic. Many mammals, birds, and fish mistake this floating plastic for food. Sea turtles especially have the tendency to confuse a plastic bag with a jellyfish, which is one of their favorite foods. Animals can die of starvation after ingesting plastic, as it gives them a false sense of being full.

Since plastics take hundreds of years to breakdown, this material may kill marine animals for generations once it reaches the ocean. According to Greenpeace International, more than a million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by ingestion of plastics or entanglement. What’s worse, experts say, is that these plastics act as a “chemical sponge” and can concentrate the most damaging of the pollutants found in the world’s oceans—persistent organic pollutants (POPs). When an animal eats these pieces of plastic debris, they will also be ingesting highly toxic pollutants.

It’s not just marine life that’s affected; trashing the ocean has a negative consequence on humans as well. Since high bacteria levels increase in the oceans as debris is washed out to sea, swimmers must be constantly aware of deteriorated water quality. I know that my surfer/swimmer husband (as well as other ocean-loving people) tend to avoid contact with the ocean for three days after a rainstorm because it becomes so filled with bacteria.

Plastic Soup in the Pacific Ocean

This huge area of trash in the Pacific Ocean was actually discovered accidentally by Captain Charles Moore, who was taking a shortcut home after completing a yacht race from Los Angeles to Hawaii.

According to Captain Moore’s biography, he veered from the usual sea route and saw an ocean he had never known, "there were shampoo caps and soap bottles and plastic bags and fishing floats as far as I could see. Here I was in the middle of the ocean, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic.”

Since then, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Captain Moore founded, has been working tirelessly to learn more about these plastic dumps in the middle of the oceans.

Though about 20% of the plastic trash comes from ocean sources, the remaining 80% of the trash comes from sources on land such as households, businesses, and factories.

It is human nature to want to get rid of trash as quickly as possible. If there isn’t a trash can nearby, many people will eventually drop the piece of trash.

Even trash that we think we are throwing away can still be lost do to improper handling, or blow away on the way to the landfill. This trash eventually makes it to the ocean via wind or by being washed into a storm drain.

Once in the ocean, circular currents bring the trash to the center of these gyres where it gets trapped in an area of low winds and currents.


The research, which is ongoing and was begun by Mr. Charles Moore in 1997, has revealed a deadly nightmare for organic life. Anti-littering campaigns may help in the future but millions of tons of plastic items continue to be manufactured and discarded every year. Plastic does not biodegrade. All plastic that has ever been made, that which has not been toxically incinerated, still exists and will always exist unless it is converted back to that whence it came.
The floating plastic must somehow be cleaned up and there appears to be only one practical means to do so.
All plastic is made from petroleum products and is made up of hydrocarbon. There is a proven process in which any hydrocarbon-based material can be converted back to high-quality light oil by a brief application of heat and pressure. This technology is known as Thermal Conversion Process and has been perfected by a New York company, Changing World Technologies, Inc. (CWT). The company has spent the past few years working with the conversion of slaughterhouse waste products into oil and is currently adding the conversion of plastic waste. We have approached CWT with our basic proposal and the company has indicated an interest in participating with us.

Changing World Technologies, Inc. captured our imagination in 2003 with an article by Discovery Magazine describing their heroic method of converting waste back into oil, which they have been doing since 1997.
We propose, in our pilot project, to put a CWT conversion process on a large ship, preferably with front-opening doors. The ship would, with a wide, V-shaped catcher, plow through the infested water, taking in the plastic waste onto conveyor belts that would feed the waste into the converters for heating and pressurizing. The result is light, high-quality fuel oil, some of which would be used by the ship, the bulk of which would be transferred to tanker ships for transport to the mainland. This fuel oil could be further refined and either sold at market price or distributed unrefined to help families in need of home heating oil, in addition to many other worthy programs.

Thermal Conversion Process

Many technologies have been used over the years to destroy troublesome waste, including incineration, but at an expense to the environment. Now, technological development has produced a new process that allows waste to be reformed into renewable fuels, thereby minimizing the environmental effects from the combustion of waste.

The TCP successfully converts fats, bones, greases, feathers and other wastes into renewable diesel, fertilizers, and specialty chemicals. TCP works with wet mixed feedstocks, and by cleverly utilizing water, avoids the energy penalty of drying the materials, typical of other technologies.

Agricultural wastes alone make up approximately 50% of the total yearly waste generation (6 billion tons) in the U.S. With TCP, the 6 billion tons of agricultural waste could theoretically be converted into 4 billion barrels of oil. Realizing only a portion of this incremental domestic energy production is clearly in our national interest, because it ensures greater national energy independence. At the same time, this production provides a permanent solution to serious environmental problems caused by current waste disposal practices.

Changing World Technologies, Inc. (CWT) is at the forefront of revolutionizing renewable energy by changing the way in which organic waste materials are utilized, thereby providing a platform for sustainable development. What was once deemed as “waste” and transported to a landfill, can now be converted to a reliable stream of renewable energy, minimizing global warming, and improving our quality of life.

How they do it

The smell is a mélange of midsummer corpse with fried-liver overtones and a distinct fecal note. It comes from the worst stuff in the world—turkey slaughterhouse waste. Rotting heads, gnarled feet, slimy intestines, and lungs swollen with putrid gases have been trucked here from a local Butterball packager and dumped into an 80-foot-long hopper with a sickening glorp. In about 20 minutes, the awful mess disappears into the workings of the thermal conversion process plant in Carthage, Missouri.

Two hours later a much cleaner truck—an oil carrier—pulls up to the other end of the plant, and the driver attaches a hose to the truck's intake valve. One hundred fifty barrels of fuel oil, worth $12,600 wholesale, gush into the truck, headed for an oil company that will blend it with heavier fossil-fuel oils to upgrade the stock. Three tanker trucks arrive here on peak production days, loading up with 500 barrels of oil made from 270 tons of turkey guts and 20 tons of pig fat. Most of what cannot be converted into fuel oil becomes high-grade fertilizer; the rest is water clean enough to discharge into a municipal wastewater system.

For Brian Appel—and, maybe, for an energy-hungry world—it's a dream come true, better than turning straw into gold. The thermal conversion process can take material more plentiful and troublesome than straw—slaughterhouse waste, municipal sewage, old tires, mixed plastics, virtually all the wretched detritus of modern life—and make it something the world needs much more than gold: high-quality oil.

Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, has prodded, pushed, and sometimes bulldozed his way toward this goal for nearly a decade, and his joy is almost palpable. "This is a real plant," he says, grinning broadly. He nods at the $42 million mass of tanks, pipes, pumps, grinders, boilers, and catwalks inside a corrugated steel building. The plant is perched 100 yards from ConAgra Foods' Butterball plant, where 35,000 turkeys are butchered daily, surrendering their viscera to Appel's operation. The pig fat comes from four other midwestern ConAgra slaughterhouses. "To anybody who thinks this can't work on an industrial scale, I say, 'Come here and look.' This is the first commercial biorefinery in the world that can make oil from a variety of waste streams."

So why has success been so long coming? Basically, Appel says, everything has been more complex and expensive than anyone guessed. First, the conversion process needed tweaking. Each variable—temperature, pressure, volume, tank-residence time—needs to precisely match the feedstock, which proves to be no mean feat on an industrial scale. "The really difficult thing has been finding the sweet spot in the process parameters," says Appel. "This isn't a laboratory. We have to respond to the real world of varying supply. If I get two truckloads in a row of just feathers, I need to deal with that high-protein peak. Or if I get too much blood at once, the result is too much water." The solution has been to blend disparate truckloads of stock in a holding tank, making what enters the process relatively consistent.  

Project Kaisei

Celebrate World Ocean Day, and Project Kaisei ..... The World's First Combined Ocean Sports Clean-up Effort
Project Kaisei is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco and Hong Kong, established to increase the understanding and the scale of marine debris, its impact on our ocean environment, and how we can introduce solutions for both prevention and clean-up.   

Our main focus is on the North Pacific Gyre, which constitutes a large accumulation of debris in one of the largest and most remote ecosystems on the planet.  To accomplish these objectives, Project Kaisei is serving as a catalyst to bring together public and private collaborators to design, test and implement break-throughs in science, prevention and remediation.

Kaisei means “Ocean Planet” in Japanese, and is the name of the iconic tall ship that was one of the two research vessels in the August expedition.  The other was the New Horizon, a Scripps Oceanography vessel that was arranged via a new collaboration between Project Kaisei and Scripps to provide additional research on the impacts of debris in the gyre.  Each vessel obtained a wide variety of samples from this part of the ocean which are now being analyzed.  What was evident was the pervasiveness of small plastic debris that was found in every surface sample net that was used for regular sampling over 3,500 miles between the two vessels.   

In the summer of 2010, Project Kaisei will launch its second Expedition to the North Pacific Gyre, where it will send multiple vessels to continue marine debris research, and in particular, to test an array of marine debris collection systems.  Debris collected will be used to further study the feasibility of converting this to fuel or other useable material.  As a collaborative action program, Project Kaisei is seeking sponsors, participants and leaders in their respective industries who can help to make a difference, on land, or at sea, in reducing marine debris.


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