Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

TRASH TALK 3/3: Cleaning up the ocean

If you’ve been following my series of blogs you may be thinking that there’s no hope, that our oceans are ruined beyond fixing. But there’s good news! There are many different ways that the waste in our oceans is being fixed including through treaties, covenants and entrepreneurship.

Some of the main treaties and covenants that have been created in response to the growing trash issue stem from the actions of the United Nations (UN). Other organisations such as the European Union (EU) have also establish frameworks from countries and companies to abide by to minimise damage to our oceans. Some of these include:

Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention)


Courtesy of: Steve Tate

OSPAR was founded in 1972 and compromises 15 Governments and the EU in an effort to protect the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic.

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution form Ships (MARPOL)

The main international convention addressing the problem of pollution from ships, this convention was adopted in 1973 at a meeting of the International Maritime Organization, a subsidiary of the United Nations. Currently has 171 ratified member states.

International Coastal Clean-up (ICC)

The International Coastal Clean-up is an annual clean up day organised by Ocean Conservancy where people around the world take to their local beaches and do their part to remove rubbish from our oceans. In 2014, 560,000 volunteers from 91 different countries help to clean-up more than 16,000,000 pounds of garbage!


Copyright of UCSD

Not only are governments and transnational organisations attempting to tackle the issue of ocean trash, even more impressive are the efforts of individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)! Here are some of my favourite grass-roots efforts to reduce the rubbish in our seas:

Boyan Slats Ocean Clean-up

At just 19 years of age Boyan Slat, a Dutch

ocean clean up

Copyright of Ocean Cleanup

entrepreneur, invented the Ocean Clean-up array. His system was a breakthrough idea, utilising the oceans own currents and movement to collect the rubbish instead of implementing boats for movement. In 2014, the array underwent a feasibility test and it was concluded that his technology was indeed feasible and would take under 10 years to clean up the trash circle. Exciting stuff!

Sea Chair

Studio Swine created the Sea Chair project to encourage people to upcycle plastic and spread awareness of the sheer amount of waste in our oceans. Their project recycles plastic waste they find in the seas and turns it into practical everyday items, namely chairs, that can last years.

Mr Trash Wheel
An exciting initiative implement by the Balti

mr trashwheel

Copyright of Baltimore

more council in Maryland, USA, this trash clean up system can be reproduced and implemented by many councils worldwide. Utilising the rivers current and solar energy collected by the Trash Wheels solar panels, Mr Trash Wheel collects rubbish from the river which is then incinerated to produce electricity. That’s a win-win!

Marine debris tracker app

This is a great way for everyone to get involved in clean up our beaches! The debris tracker app is free for anyone to download and use. It encourages everybody to do their bit whilst enjoying our beaches, but also has the capacity for people to report hazardous waste that can then be cleaned up by appropriate organisations. Another great feature of this app is that you can find out about beach clean-up days near you and connect with like-minded people.

As you can see, the issue of how rubbish gets into our oceans, how we can remove what’s there and how to prevent more rubbish ending up in our seas, is very complex. However this issue is getting more and more attention and through the amazing initiative of individuals like Boyan Slat, and organisations like the United Nations, our oceans can be saved and future generations will be able to enjoy our stunning marine environment.


Copyright of ihdimages


Baltimore Government nd., Mr. Trash Wheel, Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, retrieved the 16th April 2016,

Marine Debris Tracker nd., Marine Debris FAQ, Marine Debris Tracker, retrieved 16th April 2016,

Ocean Cleanup nd., The Technology, The Ocean Cleanup, retrieved 11th April 2016,

Ocean Conservancy nd., International Coastal Cleanup, Ocean Conservancy, retrieved 18th April 2016,

OSPAR nd., About OSPAR, OSPAR Commission, retrieved 5th April 2016,

Weldon, C nd., The Amazing Sea Chair, Liveability, retrieved 14th April 2016


One comment on “TRASH TALK 3/3: Cleaning up the ocean

  1. rebeccapinder
    May 5, 2016

    Another interesting area that you could look into for reducing/ controlling the amount of ocean trash is a recent study in Japan that identified a particular bacterium that can actually dissolve or “eat” PET plastics. The study found that “a community of Ideonella sakaiensis (bacterium) could break down a thin film of PET over the course of six weeks if the temperature were held at a steady 86 degrees Fahrenheit.”

    Although this study wont be able to remove all of the ocean trash in the world, it certainly is a step in the right direction towards tackling this issue.

    Read more at:


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