Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Two inspirational companies removing pollutants from our air and water.

It's undeniable, Humankind is making rather a mess of the planet, with excess carbon in our atmosphere and plastics in our waterways. However, we appear to be taking account of the damage we have caused, and although solutions to these issues are being found at the eleventh hour, we may be able to use these to rectify the situation we have found ourselves in.

Climeworks is removing excess CO₂ from the air, and The Ocean Cleanup removes plastics from our water systems.

Tackling Carbon excess:

Although reducing emissions is an essential part of saving our climate, we also need to account for the historical carbon emissions contained in our air.

Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted globally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that we need to remove around 10 billion tons of CO₂ from the air every year by mid-century if we are to be within Climate scenarios where global warming increases by only 1.5°C.

These climate scenarios rely on large-scale applications of CO₂ removal technologies, such as direct air capture. With these carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems enabling the extension of time within the Carbon Budget.

 

Climeworks, founded in 2009, is now the world's leading direct air capture company and provides a solution that empowers everyone to be climate positive by removing CO₂ from the air.

Climeworks' direct air capture and storage is a scalable solution that can remove CO₂ from the air permanently and safely.

The core element of Climeworks' technology are the CO₂ collectors, which selectively capture CO₂ in a two-step process.

  1. Air is drawn into the collector with a fan. CO₂ is captured on the surface of a highly selective filter material that sits inside the collectors.
  2. After the filter material is full of CO₂, the collector is closed. The temperature is increased to between 80 and 100 °C, releasing the high-purity, high-concentration CO₂, which is then collected.

The captured carbon can then be stored underground to achieve negative emissions or sold for use in fertilisers, carbonated drinks and synthetic fuels. 

A Climeworks direct air capture plant

Climeworks opened it's first plant in Switzerland in 2017, they now have 14 plants in Iceland, with another (Orca) under construction, due to be opened this summer.

Scientists, opinion leaders, and corporations are addressing the need for this technology and actively support its scale-up. They collectively agree that we must use direct air capture and storage to fight climate change, with the technology needing to be scaled up as soon as possible. 

Four years ago, the costs of CO₂ removal were considered too high to be commercially viable, and it was thought that CCS systems wouldn't be commercially available at scale until the middle of the century, by which time we could be looking at a very different energy and climatic environment. However, Climeworks is now able to offer its CO₂ removal service to everyone – and in doing so, it proves that a market for measurable and permanent CO₂ removal, using their direct air capture system, exists.

Gathering plastic in our waterways:

Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the ocean, 80% of it having originated from 1000 rivers located around the globe.
Not only do we have to clean up the plastics that are currently within our oceans, we also need to stem the source, so we need to clean up these rivers. The Ocean Cleanup is tackling both issues.

A long U-shaped barrier guides the plastic into a retention zone at its far end.
Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup
Ocean clean up:

There are five major ocean trash patches, with the largest one found between Hawaii and California, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Ocean Cleanup can use their cleanup systems at trash patch locations and surrounding areas to concentrate the floating plastics and collect them, returning them to shore for recycling.

Following years of research and testing, The Ocean Cleanup team caught its first plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2019, during the System 001/B campaign.

The plastics caught during this campaign have been recycled into sunglasses, which can be purchase here
Purchasing a pair of these sunglasses will support future ocean cleanup campaigns, with 100% of the proceeds going towards future clean up operations. 

Expected Impact: Our floating systems are designed to capture plastics ranging from small pieces, just millimetres in size, up to large debris, including massive, discarded fishing nets (ghost nets), which can be tens of meters wide.
After fleets of systems are deployed into every ocean gyre, combined with source reduction, The Ocean Cleanup projects to remove 90% of floating ocean plastic by 2040.
The Ocean Cleanup

River clean up:

Intercepting plastic in rivers is much more cost-effective than dealing with the consequences downstream.

The Interceptor is The Ocean Cleanup's answer for river plastic waste. It is the first scalable solution to prevent plastic from entering the world's oceans from rivers. It is 100% solar-powered, extracts plastic autonomously, and is capable of operating in the majority of the world's most polluting rivers.

"Working together with government leaders, individuals, and private corporations, our goal is to tackle these 1000 most polluting rivers all over the world, in five years from rollout." 
The ocean company.

The Ocean Cleanup see themselves as the architects for river projects to stop the inflow of plastic into the oceans. The Ocean Cleanup brings in the knowledge (where and how to intercept riverine plastic), provides solutions (e.g. the Interceptor), and uses its network to raise awareness and help attract funding and financing.
Given the scale and the urgency of the issue, we need partners to reach the goal of tackling plastic in the 1000 most polluting rivers in 5 years from rollout.
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