Non-profit organization OCG has built a search engine that helps clean the ocean. Founded in 2019, they’re committed to improve marine lives and free them from plastic pollution; one of the ways is through digital means.
The search engine works like the good ol Google. The more a user searches, they will see more relevant ads. What makes it different is that OCG gets a portion of that advertisement fee and they use the money to fund cleanup operations.
Why search engine you might ask? The idea is that everybody can make a difference everywhere through the smallest/simplest thing. Founders Mike Powell and Jon Chambers wanted people “to make a change wherever and whenever they are.”
Powell said, “While traveling, I was shocked at the extent of plastic waste in some countries, you hear and see news about it all the time, but seeing and witnessing it firsthand really brought something to life in me.”
Motivated to make a change, Powell used his savings and tech skills to develop the OCG engine. In just three months, his organization has removed over 126 tons of plastic, all thanks to 100,000 search engine users.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, waste plastic may outnumber fish in the sea by 2050. A report from the University of Newcastle in Australia has found that the average person ingests plastic at a weight of a credit card each week through drinking water.
All efforts to reduce plastic has come to a halt because of the pandemic. There’s been an increase in the quantity of single-use personal protective equipment as well as disposables.
No matter how often we do coastal cleanings, if people don’t reduce their consumption of plastic, this problem is going to repeat itself at a frequent rate. Or more like a vicious cycle.
“There’s a long way to go, but continuing to eliminate single-use plastic from your purchases –and finding ingenious ways to reuse and refill what you do end up purchasing–is a great place to start,”
“To avoid contributing to the micro-plastic pollution from synthetic clothing, choose natural fibers, buy clothes that last, learn how to mend and upcycle, and wash synthetic clothes using a whizzy micro-plastics guard,” Helle Abelvik-Lawson from Greenpeace wrote.
Starting from Bali
OCG started their first cleanup operation in Bali and they want to expand all around Southeast Asia. They’ve hired and trained local communities to form cleanup crews. With every three searches each user does, the crew can pick up and recycle one plastic bag.
Currently, the non-profit has a warehouse where the crew bring all collected plastics. Then, they’ll separate them into its group (bottles, masks, bags, etc) and recycle.
For now, the organization uses ECO Bali’s service to do the recycling, but they’re hoping to do it independently soon.
“In tough times like these, we didn’t want to rely on donations, so we aimed at building a self-sustainable nonprofit operation,”
“One of our main goals was to provide jobs in communities across South East Asia where plastic pollution is at its worst. All our ocean cleanup operations are staffed by local people,” said Chambers.
Additionally, OCG has partnered up with local organizations and conservation centers to rescue marine animals which are injured from plastic wastes like sea turtles.
Oh plastic, our plastic
Recently, there’s a detailed study regarding plastic pollution. The published study (in Science Journal) is a result of two-year research and analysis by Pew Charitable Trusts and environmental think tank SYSTEMIQ, Ltd.
Together, they wanted to know the actual problem the humanity is facing, aka plastic pollution. From that, they can find out what effective solutions we can do.
What did the study find? In our planet, there’s about 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of plastic per meter (3.2 ft) of shoreline. The number we usually find is 8 million metric tons annually. But the study states that it’s actually closer to 11 metric tons.
Not just that, the study says that we could reach 29 metric tons in another twenty years. That excludes the many tons of plastic we produce on land every year.
In other words, the ocean plastic pollution can triple by 2040 if we’re doing nothing to stop it.
You may say that governments and businesses should do more to reduce this problem. But this study says that even if both followed through their policies to curb plastic waste, the global flow of ocean plastic would shrink by only 7% by 2040.
The five scenarios
There are five scenarios that the researchers created and analyzed, all regarding how plastic waste is dealt with differently between now and 2040.
The first scenario was “Business as usual”, providing a baseline to which alternative models can be compared. Second, “Collect and Dispose” dealt with the improvement of collection & disposal infrastructure.
Thirdly, “Recycling” tried to improve and expand recycling capabilities. The fourth was “Reduce ad Substitute” which was an upstream solution that replaces plastic with other greener materials.
And finally, “System Change” was a complete overhaul such as reducing demand for plastic, replacing with better materials, and improving recycling rates.
Researchers found that when governments and businesses were really trying hard to push for a remake of the global plastics industry, along with a total System Change, we could reduce plastic waste by 80% by 2040.
Moreover, researchers added that if this total overhaul were not done in just five years, there would be an additional 500 million metric tons of plastic waste that could leave negative impacts to the environment.
Change that needs to happen asap
Some of you may think “Well, we need to overhaul everything right now”. That’s not wrong, but it’s not cheap.
A total overhaul would cost $600 billion. National Geographic reported that that number is “$70 billion cheaper than proceeding through the next two decades business-as-usual, primarily because of the reduced use of virgin plastic.”
When it comes to costs and spending, we’ve gotta remember that not everybody can afford it. There’s a lot of things going on in an area/country/region. Even though the people there want to change too, that might not happen in an instant.
What should we do then? The best thing everybody can do right now is reuse and recycle as much as possible.
CEO of Ellen MacArthur Foundation Andrew Morlet who has been advocating for circular economy said, “The writing is on the wall. We actually have to leave the oil in the ground and keep the flow of existing polymers in the system and innovate.”
One thing about recycling is that we need to improve it from its current underdeveloped state. That means collection rates must go up.
Right now, about two billion people lack access to waste collection services, and that number can increase to four billion by 2040. Scaling up won’t be easy, though.
According to the report, “[It] would require connecting over a million additional households to MSW (municipal solid waste) collection services per week from 2020 to 2040; the majority of these unconnected households are in middle-income countries.”
I think the best we can do right now as eco-conscious people is reducing plastic usage, reuse a lot, and push for more recycling facilities so that we won’t rely on virgin plastics anymore. What do you think we should do?
You can read the in-depth report and study here (https://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2020/07/breakingtheplasticwave_report.pdf) and here (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1455?utm_campaign=SciMag&utm_source=JHubbard&utm_medium=Twitter).