pollution

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Design Science

The Ocean Cleanup Conceptualizes Its Third Massive Apparatus to Remove Trash from the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’

September 22, 2022

Grace Ebert

Sadly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a wide swath of ocean between the U.S. coast and Japan is an enormous vortex of trash. A gyre, or system of currents, surrounds the area and sucks debris and litter into its rotation, trapping hundreds of millions of kilograms of plastic waste within its 20 million square kilometers.

Back in 2018, The Ocean Cleanup engineered a slow-moving apparatus called System 001 designed to wade through the patch to retrieve garbage with a massive net. The nonprofit, which wants to remove 90 percent of floating plastic by 2040, is now conceptualizing its third iteration of the machine that will be the largest and most efficient model to date. “When it comes to cleaning the oceans, size matters,” a statement about the new technology says. “Bigger systems mean fewer support vessels, which are the main cost driver (and the main carbon emitter) in our operations. In short, bigger systems mean a lower cost per kilogram.” System 002 removed more than 100,000 kilograms of plastic as of July 2022.

In a newly produced concept video, The Ocean Cleanup suggests that System 3 will now be comprised of three vessels that rely on drones to identify waste hotspots. The ships will haul a massive 2,500-meter wide and four-meter deep net system that sweeps the targeted areas to gather debris and funnel it to a sizable retention zone. Once collected and hauled from the water, the waste is organized into shipping containers and sent for recycling or repurposing.

The Ocean Cleanup plans to create a fleet of ten System 03 machines in the coming months, which the organization estimates will be powerful enough to restore much of the area. You can follow its progress on Twitter and Instagram, and head to its site for occasional live streams.

 

A rendering of the retention zone

A rendering of the net

A rendering of the net

 

 



Documentary Photography

An Insightful Short Film Follows a 90-Year-Old Fisherman Who Clears Plastic from Bali’s Coasts

August 6, 2021

Grace Ebert

Each day, 90-year-old Wayan gathers his nets and mesh sacks and sets his small boat out on the coast of Bali. The jewel-toned waters used to be a prime location for fishing, a profession Wayan practiced throughout childhood and continued for decades, but today, instead of reeling in massive catches and struggling to drag them back to shore, he’s finding an overabundance of disposable containers and garbage where the once-thriving marine populations used to live—some reports estimate that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

In her impactful short film “Voice Above Water,” San Francisco-based director Dana Frankoff visits Wayan at his coastal home and chronicles his adapted routine: rather than harvesting food for his family and community, he scoops up wrappers, bottles, and other refuse and carries the discarded material back to the beach for recycling. “The story is a glimpse into how one human is using his resources to make a difference and a reminder that if we all play our part we can accomplish something much greater than ourselves,” Frankoff says.

“Voice Above Water” is the director’s debut film, and you can follow her work on Vimeo. (via Laughing Squid)

 

 

 



Photography

A Colorful Macro Photo of Beach Sand Reveals Infinitesimal Fragments of Coral, Quartz, Shells, and Plastic

July 29, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Macrofying, shared with permission

A stunning macro image by Ole Bielfeldt lays out the individual elements that comprise a dusting of sand from a Mallorca beach, revealing a piece of microplastic embedded within the colorful composition. “Although to the naked eye this looks like very clean natural sand, pieces of microplastic, as seen in the last image, can be found when viewed under the microscope,” says the Cologne-based photographer, who works as Macrofying. The prevalence of the tiny pollutants is especially high on Mediterranean coasts, meaning seemingly pristine beaches comprised of quartz, seashells, and coral debris are often riddled with the manufactured material.

Bielfeldt is known for zooming in on the otherwise unseen details of common goods and natural substances, which he shares in an extensive archive on Instagram and YouTube. “My work has definitely shaped my view on everyday objects. After exploring so many different samples, you get a new feeling for your environment and start to understand how some things work. There’s a complete and amazing little universe hidden right before our eyes,” he says. (via Twisted Sifter)

 

 

 



Animation

A Satirical New Animation by Greenpeace Swamps Boris Johnson in a Gushing Sea of Plastic

May 19, 2021

Grace Ebert

Greenpeace’s new campaign opens with a single bottle bouncing off Boris Johnson’s head mid-press conference before a waterfall of plastic overwhelms the prime minister and carries him out to the street. The satirical and pressing animation pours the equivalent of the 1.8 million kilograms of waste the U.K. sends to other countries each day into Downing Street, which topples Johnson and Michael Gove as it literally engulfs the British political landscape.

Wasteminster: A Downing Street Disaster” is the organization’s latest effort to put pressure on the government to enact new policies around recycling and the environment. “Much of (the plastic waste) ends up illegally dumped or burnt, poisoning local people and polluting oceans and rivers,” says Greenpeace U.K. political campaigner Sam Chetan-Welsh. “The government could put a stop to this but so far Boris Johnson is only offering half measures. We need a complete ban on all plastic waste exports and legislation to make U.K. companies reduce the amount of plastic they produce in the first place.”

Conceptualized and produced by Studio Birthplace alongside Park Village, the short film lifts actual quotes from interviews and speeches made by Johnson and the U.K. government, many of which boast about the nation’s success in combatting pollution. While the 3D figures resemble Johnson and Gove, directors Jorik Dozy and Sil van der Woerd say they’re not identical in order to “introduce some distance to these real politicians. After all, they are only dummies. Our intention was not to ridicule politicians, but to place their dummy-personas in a direct conflict with the invisible consequences of their own actions.”

Read more about Greenpeace’s initiative and the film’s production process, which involved lengthy research and the help of CG producers Method & Madness, on Studio Birthplace’s site.

 

 

 



Animation

The Beauty: A Poignant Animated Short Film Reimagines Plastic Waste as Ocean Life

March 24, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Simultaneously stunning and filthy” is how director Pascal Schelbli describes his 2019 short film “The Beauty.” A cautionary reimagining of the world’s rampant plastic pollution, the arresting animation reenvisions waste as lively sea life: a bubble-wrap fish puffs up, a serpentine tire glides through the water, and an entire school of discarded footwear swims in an undulating mass.

As it plumbs the vast expanse of the littered ocean, “The Beauty” magnifies the enduring nature of waste and lays bare the insidious effects of microplastics as they enter the food chain and impact the overall health of the ecosystem. In a statement, Schelbli describes the motivation behind the film, which won a Student Academy Award in 2020:

Instead of showing another mournful stomach full of plastic bags, I thought, ‘what if plastic could be integrated into the sea life and nature solves the problem?’ The film should take you on a journey, where all our feelings of guilt will disappear. But in the end, we wake up and realize that we need to change something.

To see more of the Zürich-based director’s poignant animations, check out his Vimeo and Instagram, and watch a recent Last Week Tonight segment that dives further into the crisis and explains how recycling isn’t the best solution.

 

 

 



Animation

Selfish: An Animated Short Explores the Tragic Impacts of Plastic Pollution

September 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

In “Selfish,” what opens with a benign scene at a sushi restaurant quickly turns into a dire assessment of plastic pollution. Created by Canada-based animator PoChien Chen, the appropriately named film begins by a chef plucking a detergent bottle from a pile of fresh fish, assembling various dishes made entirely of waste material, and subsequently serving them to a horrified trio of aquatic life. It then dives into a disturbing series of facts and figures about the current state of our oceans and the effects of pollution on wildlife.

Chen said in a statement that the critical animation was inspired by a visit to a small island in Taiwan two years ago:

It was the closest I’d lived to the sea, being only a 10 minute drive away. Everyone can enjoy the beach with its white sand and turquoise ocean. At the time, I went snorkeling almost every week. Seeing such alluring tropical fish and coral reefs sill lingers in my mind. However, I also cannot forget the scenes of tons of human waste lying around the shore as if it were a part of nature.

See how Chen animated the project—which has garnered an impressive list of awards from film festivals around the world—on Behance, and check out more his films on Vimeo.