Science & Technology

Team Seas is a drop in the bucket for an oceanic problem  

While the amount of plastic Team Seas pledges to remove is negligible, and the initiative may not be creating social impact either. 

 A couple of Youtubers; Mr. Beast, 23, (Jimmy Donaldson) and Mark Rober, 41, (former NASA engineer) are reaching new heights by using their social platforms to try to bring awareness of the global climate change crisis. Their latest cause is a push to remove plastic from the world’s oceans. But how much will it really do?  

The increase of plastic in the oceans is creating a trash island more than twice the size of Texas, according to EarthSky.org. With the current output in the oceans, it is projected that by 2050 there will be more trash in the oceans than fish. 

Donaldson and Rober’s “Team Seas” is a campaign that was started to remove 30 million pounds of trash out of oceans, beaches, and rivers by raising 30 million dollars by the start of 2022. But with the billions of tons of plastic that goes into the ocean every year, can Team Seas even make a dent to the issue? 

The YouTubers partnered with the Ocean Conservancy and The Ocean Cleanup Mr. Beast says that “each dollar donated to Team Seas, is a pound of trash will be taken out of an ocean, river or beach.” The money raised will be used to fund the cleanup crews and to research and produce new equipment and technology.  

30 million pounds sounds like a lot of trash to pick up, but according to the conservation organization, there is a total of 17.6 billion pounds of trash entering the oceans every single year. If Team Seas reach their goal, that will only remove around 0.17% of the trash that goes into the oceans annually. 

Why would you want to donate to Team Seas if there is little to no impact on cleaning the oceans?  

Well, that is not entirely true, Team Seas does create an impact by helping develop new ways to reduce and clean polluted bodies of water.

One of the organizations Team Seas are partnered with, The Ocean Cleanup, is a non-profit that works on new ways to clean the oceans safely and more efficiently. The Ocean Cleanup is using a machine called the Interceptor. The Interceptor is a large floating machine that runs completely on solar energy and picks up trash that flows down rivers by using floating barriers. The barriers only submerge 1 and a half feet under the water, which helps the trash flow down the river straight to the Interceptor without disrupting the pathways of fish or other wildlife. Then the trash goes on a conveyor belt into one of six large floating bins that can hold twice the amount of a regular garbage truck, which is then distributed to the local waste management. In the next 5 years, The Ocean Cleanup plans to distribute 1000 Interceptors in the 1% of rivers that cause 80% of ocean plastic pollution, reducing the amount of plastic that goes into the ocean significantly, although the interceptor isn’t helping the amount of waste that goes into the rivers just preventing the waste from going into the ocean. Half of the funds Team Seas raises will go to The Ocean Cleanup which specializes in researching and production of machines to help ocean pollution, such as the Interceptor. 

Youtube/MarkRober

But where will the trash go after it is picked up?  

The Team Seas website says that all the plastic bottles, cans, and glass will be sent to be recycled; the rest will go to a waste management facility to be stored to decompose naturally in landfills. However, according to The World Economic Forum most low-income countries only have the option to burn their trash which causes pollution to the atmosphere, and Team Seas is mostly working in low-income countries. 

Unfortunately, one of the reasons that the oceans and rivers get polluted is because poor and densely populated areas don’t have a proper waste disposal system in place which means that they don’t have a weekly garbage pick-up day like many of us are used to, so they will often use rivers and beaches as a personal trash chute. This is a severe problem that is a major factor in ocean plastic and garbage pollution. According to statista.com, The top ten most plastic polluted rivers are either in third world countries or flow through densely populated areas. These neighborhoods lack the necessary funds to make major improvements to their communities. I think it would be more beneficial if Team Seas put aside some of the funds raised for uplifting poor communities’ waste disposal. I believe this is the real way to reduce ocean plastic pollution. 

Although the Team Seas campaign will only make a minor change to removing ocean plastic, it has brought lots of eyes on the problem through their heavy social media following, #TeamSeas has over 100 million total views across YouTube, Mark Rober and Mr. Beast were also guests on Jimmy Kimmel Live and are both actively promoting Team Seas on Twitter. Mr. Beast and Mark Rober seem keen on promoting Team Seas to multiple audiences across different platforms, although Team Seas is only a non-permanent solution to the ocean plastic crisis.  

Team Seas should try to focus more on a long-lasting solution as opposed to a short-term one, like properly educating and helping communities in need with bona fide garbage disposal systems or trying to find different environmentally friendly alternatives as opposed to plastics. Although Team Seas is trying to make an effort to address ocean pollution, unfortunately its approach will not lead to a lasting change.

Cover image: Wikimedia/MichaelisScientists   

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