In a global period of uncertainty, whether political, societal, or environmental, it is important to find pragmatic solutions to issues that affect all humans universally. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste estimated to be in our oceans. We all understand the importance of our oceans. They keep the world running economically and environmentally, but humans have systematically ignored the harm we cause upon our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is a mass of trash, mainly plastics, floating over the Pacific ocean that is roughly the size of Texas. It is a huge issue because of the threat it poses to all living creatures due to that fact that plastics never disappear from the environment once they are created. The detriments that microplastics in the GPGP pose is very large. Small microorganisms eat the microplastics, then larger fish eat the microorganisms, and eventually the plastic enters humans through the food chain. The question our government leaders need to be asking themselves is: How can we get rid of the GPGP?
That is where the Energy Recovery System (ERS) comes into play. Based on the methodology that plastic is made from oil, the ERS will turn the plastics and trash back into oil. Using a scientific process called thermal depolymerization, the plastic will be depolymerized turned back into oil and other natural substances.
The process of thermal depolymerization is conducted by grinding the plastic to chunks, then mixing it water with water. The mix is then subjected to high pressure and heated at 482 degrees fahrenheit. Then, crude hydrocarbons and solid minerals are produced, which are then separated using fractional distillation and oil refining techniques. At the end of the process, water, oil, and carbons are separated in distillation tanks. Society would implement this thermal depolymerization machine into tanker ships by placing the machine directly on it. This process could be conducted in conjunction with the Ocean Cleanup, the group that invented the plastic collection booms in the Pacific Ocean. The tanker ships would be highly efficient and automated, and only return to port for maintenance. They would go directly to the booms and pick up the plastic and start the process of thermal depolymerization. This process could be done on land as well, by placing the machine on a flatbed truck and driving it around to landfills.
However, the positives of the ERS go beyond solely keeping our oceans clean. Kris Walker of Azo CleanTech explains the economic benefits of using thermal depolymerization, stating that, “In a completely thermal depolymerization-based economy, the amount of CO2 produced by the burning of fuels is exactly balanced by the plants grown to be used for thermal depolymerization feedstock. The amount of energy hitting the Earth is about 5000 times more than the total amount of energy used by all human activity. Therefore, with an optimum use of the thermal depolymerization technology, the Earth might conveniently support ten times its current population at a high standard of living.” If humanity is able to sustain the cleanliness of our oceans as well as the general population, the using thermal depolymerization in coalition through the ERS would be the optimal solution to clean up our oceanic mess.
Thermal depolymerization through the ERS is an incredibly efficient and feasible method to create solvency for the ocean pollution quandary. It is high time that our government finds logical solutions to conserve our oceans, and establishing scientific processes to combat the issues mankind has produced is a great way to start.