The last time you walked on the beach, you probably saw more than a few pieces of garbage, including at least a few beer cans. Now imagine those beer cans lining the seafloor, just below your favorite dock. Hundreds of them collect there, forming a reef of beer cans and other garbage, like plastic cups and water bottles, food wrappers and more.
These reefs, according to the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, can smother the seafloor with up to 41 million pieces of trash per square kilometer. That’s 820 times more than the average amount of trash found in the center of the Pacific gyre, which has about 50,000 pieces per square kilometer.
“It’s alarming to see lobsters and fish fighting their way out from among beer cans and food wrappers. This is unacceptable,” Rachael Z. Miller, Rozalia Project Co-Founder, said in a news release.
The Rozalia Project is working to clean these trash reefs and aims to prevent them from accumulating in the first place, with the help of innovative technology. Part of this challenge, however, is not about the garbage itself, but is about redirecting the conversations we have about marine debris from the open ocean to the shores.
The majority of marine debris enters our oceans at the land/sea interface after being blown, washed, or discarded into the water in urban areas. The Rozalia Project found that a large percentage of that trash ends up not drifting out to sea, but sinking right near shore by our beaches and harbors. For this reason, the organization believes we should focus cleanup and prevention efforts on these urban land/sea interfaces, instead of in the ocean gyres.
The Rozalia Project is doing just this by using a VideoRay remotely operated vehicle (ROV), called Hector, to clean the seafloor of trash. Hector can take pictures, record videos, and pick up garbage, while being controlled from the surface. The only good thing about the large concentrations of garbage forming these reefs is that it makes cleanup efforts quite efficient and economic.
Check out this video to get an idea of just how extensive these trash reefs can be:
During the summer, the Rozalia Project operates from their 60-foot sailing research vessel, American Promise, through the Gulf of Maine. During non-boating months, the operate dockside in North America. They have three goals: a protected ocean, a thriving ocean, and a clean ocean.
To learn more, watch this May 2014 TedTalk with Rozalia Project Co-Founder Rachael Miller.
Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.