Watch 19K pounds of garbage get scooped out of the ocean

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Between Hawaii and California lies one of the world’s largest trash accumulations: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This patch in the Pacific Ocean is estimated to consist of at least 79,000 tons of trash. That’s about the same weight as 500 jumbo jets, according to The Ocean Cleanup

While many researchers believe it would be impossible to clean up that amount of trash, entrepreneur Boyan Slat, founder of the Ocean Cleanup, may be able to prove them wrong. In July, Ocean Cleanup created System 002, or the Jenny, which is the organization’s second attempt at crafting an ocean cleanup system. The Jenny creates an 800 meter (about 2,624 feet) barrier that goes 3 meters (just under 10 feet) deep into the ocean, Slat said in a YouTube video. The Jenny has flotation devices that give it a u-shape in the water, thus creating two barriers that collect trash. Its net is open underneath it so that fish can escape. 

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“As we move through the plastic and through the water, then you get a natural flow of water caused by that movement,” Slat said in the video. “And the plastic is carried along those two barriers, which we call wings, on either side.”

During a 12-week trial run, Slat said the Ocean Cleanup team collected all the trash out of the Jenny about once a week and emptied it onto one of the two ships that drag the Jenny through the water. They then sorted out the trash for proper recycling. After the trial ended on Oct. 14, the Jenny collected 9,000 kgs (about 19,841 pounds) of ocean debris.

In a statement released Oct. 20, Ocean Cleanup said they plan on scaling System 002 into another iteration, System 003, which they hope will be three times larger than the current Jenny. About 10 upscaled systems could clean the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Slat said in an Oct. 9 tweet. In just five years, he added, these systems could remove 50% of the accumulated trash. 

“While it’s just the tip of the iceberg, these kilograms are the most important ones we will ever collect, because they are proof that cleanup is possible,” Slat said in the release. “We still have a lot of things to iron out, but one thing we know now is that, with a small fleet of these systems, we can clean this up.” 

Check out the video below to learn about how the Jenny can clean the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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The world throws away mountains of electronics every year

The world throws away mountains of electronics every year

There are a million ways to kill a cellphone. Disposing of the body isn’t so easy.

You might have several cellphones tell-tale hearting you from a darkened drawer: the phone whose battery died, the one you drowned, the one you bricked by putting the wrong passcode in too many times.

Eventually, you need to get rid of some bigger electronic waste (e-waste), being it a widescreen with missing pixels or a noisy desktop computer. With your inner Marie Kondo breathing down your neck, you throw it all in the trunk with your dead cells and take a trip to the dump.

You’re not alone.

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We were shocked to learn the latest figures from the Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report and decided to do something about it to help educate others. The images below will help you visualize the sheer amount of computers, mobile phones and other electronic products with a battery or plug we discard every day, month and year.

Ladislav Kubeš / iStock

Every day in 2019, humans produced 140,000 metric tons of electronic waste. Our researchers calculated that if this e-waste was made up entirely of bricked iPhone 11s, you could use those bricks to rebuild the Taj Mahal.

ElectronicsHub.org / Neomam

Every month, the world produces a pile of e-waste bricks that would dwarf London’s 180-meter Gherkin skyscraper – 4.47 million metric tons, to be more precise. As of 2019, just 17.4% of the world’s e-waste was “officially documented as properly collected and recycled,” according to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020.

ElectronicsHub.org / Neomam

Humans dumped 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) of e-waste in 2019. This was a rise of 9.2 Mt in five years. The growth in e-waste is outstripping the growth in recycling activities. Electronics are getting more and more lightweight, yet the tonnage that gets wasted year after year continues to rise.

ElectronicsHub.org / Neomam

By 2030, measured by our trusty iPhone 11 brick, the world’s annual e-waste is projected to engulf the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere: the One World Trade Center.

The One World Trade Center reaches 1,776 feet from its foot to the top of its spire and has a footprint of 40,000 square feet. You’re looking at 74.7 million metric tons of discarded iPhone 11s, which is the amount of e-waste we’re expected to generate annually by the year 2030.

ElectronicsHub.org / Neomam

E-waste is not distributed equally. Manufacturers source components, including precious metals and minerals from low-income countries. Consumers use and dispose of them in western and high-income Asian countries. And manufacturers and authorities send them back to low and newly emerging economies, including China and India, to be “recycled.”

One of the world’s wealthiest nations, Norway, is the country that produces the most e-waste per head. However, this figure may be high partly because e-waste disposal is highly regulated in Norway. Other countries may produce more waste than is documented.

European countries (including non-EU Norway, U.K. and Switzerland) occupy the top ten spots for e-waste produced per capita, accompanied by Australia and the U.S. Eighteen of the 20 countries with the lowest e-waste are in Africa.

You can find a full map of e-waste by country here.

artisteer / iStock

Recycling is not a cure-all. It can be an energy-intensive process with unforeseen costs for people and the planet. Dropping things off to be recycled makes us feel good about ourselves, but the fate of much of the waste sent abroad for processing is a mystery.

“A substantial proportion of e-waste exports go to countries outside Europe, including west African countries,” according to Interpol. “Treatment in these countries usually occurs in the informal sector, causing significant environmental pollution and health risks for local populations.”


Over recent decades, the common mantra has been ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ and it’s important not to underestimate the power of reduction and reuse. But a fourth option is gaining traction as the right to repair movement grows.

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Campaigners want manufacturers to create goods that can be easily repaired. Companies should detail how long a product can be expected to last and make spare parts available to aid repair long after warranties expire.

In South Africa, legislation now forbids vehicle manufacturers from voiding a warranty if the user goes to an independent repair service. In theory, this should make repair a more affordable option than replacement. In Mexico, a new copyright law effectively bans the right to repair electronic devices.

The European Union requires manufacturers to make spare parts available for up to ten years and to come with a repair manual. Goods must also be made in such a way that they can be easily dismantled. Sweden has built on this law by reducing value-added tax for repairs and spares.

pic_studio / iStock

Meanwhile, the right to repair movement has reached a watershed moment in the United States. As of March 2021, 25 states have considered active Right to Repair legislation, although the devices covered by the law vary from state to state.

A report from U.S. PIRG found that the average household spends $1,480 per year on electronics and could save $330 by repairing instead of replacing (a national saving of $40bn). Despite this, the Colorado House Business Affairs & Labor committee recently shut down a proposed right-to-repair law for the state.

ThamKC / iStock

As with the climate crisis, the ultimate power and responsibility for e-waste, recycling and right to repair belongs with governments and corporations no matter how hard they try to place the blame on consumers.

But consumer responsibility is essential if the cultural shift to a “repair society” is to occur. Right-to-repair laws are hard-won. They require campaigners to push them through, and once legislated, they require consumers to make use of them.

Next time your vintage laptop or struggling desk fan gives up, consider attending a repair café or similar. This can be an informal (and often free) place to meet experts who will help you mend your electronics, even if you have no idea what you’re doing.

Whether it helps you become a mender or just opens your eyes to the global subculture of tinkerers and fixers, it is a step toward a society where resources are used to their full capabilities instead of buried as landfill or disassembled at great cost to your health and the environment.

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Here are the Top 10 e-waste producers, measured by e-waste generated in 2019 by KG per capita:

10. Belgium: 20.4
9. United States of America: 21
8. France: 21
7. Iceland: 21.4
6. Netherlands: 21.6
5. Australia: 21.7
4. Denmark: 22.4
3. Switzerland: 23.4
2. United Kingdom: 23.9
1. Norway: 26

ToRyUK / iStock

We calculated the total e-waste (in megatons) produced in 2019 for the whole year and for each month and each day, taking data from The Global E-Waste Monitor 2020. We then calculated the corresponding volume of e-waste in terms of iPhone 11s.

The data used in the E-Waste World Heat Map comes from ‘The Global E-waste Monitor 2020: Quantities, flows, and the circular economy potential’ from the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership. The data represents the amount of e-waste generated in each country in 2019 in kg per capita.

Click here for a full list of sources.

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This article originally appeared on ElectronicsHub.organd was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Featured Image Credit: TheOceanCleanup.com.

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Kaitlyn Farley

Kaitlyn is MediaFeed’s senior editor. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, specializing in social justice and investigative reporting. She has worked at various radio stations and newsrooms, covering higher-education, local politics, natural disasters and investigative and watchdog stories related to Title IX and transparency issues.