Oceans are essential to life on earth. According to the Marine Conservation Institute, oceans generate half of the oxygen we breathe and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the health of the world’s oceans is at risk – particularly from various types of pollution.
Take marine debris. Each year, billions of pounds of trash enter the ocean, wreaking havoc on marine life and habitats. The staggering volume of discarded bags, foam, and plastic are frequently consumed – often with fatal effects – by marine mammals, fish, and birds that mistake it for food. Abandoned fishing nets, another typical form of marine debris, can drift for years, trapping fish and mammals. The debris issue can be exacerbated by ocean currents, which corral the trash into massive garbage patches. One in the North Pacific, known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is about the size of Texas.
Oil spills and nonpoint source pollution (NSP) are other contributors to poor ocean health. They both impact wildlife, habitats, and fishing communities. For example, excess nutrients from fertilizer runoff can create large blooms of algae that deplete the water of oxygen, leaving areas where little or no marine life can exist. Scientists have identified close to 400 such dead zones around the world, including one of the world’s largest in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ocean Pollution: How Inventors Can Help
We believe today’s complex ocean pollution challenges present opportunities for innovation. In honor of World Oceans Day on June 8, we’d like to showcase the young innovators and entrepreneurs within our community that are addressing the ocean health crisis by inventing new technologies, and bringing their inventions to the world via new ventures, creating jobs and impact at the same time.
Converting Ocean Waste
University of California, Davis
Developing a process to convert plastic debris in oceans into clean polymer resins that can be used in new fabrics
“There is currently little or no market value for plastics recovered from the ocean. Our innovation converts mixed plastic waste from oceans into raw materials that can be turned into new textiles. Our process also avoids typical industrial fermentation, gasification, and depolymerization techniques, which also contribute to environmental issues.” – Akshay Sethi, Co-Founder of Ambercycle
Preventing Oil Pollution
Texas State University
Inventing a patent-pending technology that removes residual oil and dissolved solids from wastewater in the oil and gas extraction process
“The wastewater generated in the oil and gas extraction process is a significant source of ocean pollution. Hydrocarbons and chemicals from wastewater accumulate in fish, disturbing reproductive functions. Our eco-friendly, reusable filtration system absorbs hydrocarbons from wastewater, making it safe to discharge into the ocean.” – Archana Gujjari, Co-Founder of TX2O
Cleaning Oil Spills
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Creating an effective, environmentally-friendly method for cleaning up oceanic and freshwater oil spills
“Current solutions to oil spills are slow, expensive, and cannot be used in many ocean environments. Our innovative system utilizes a re-usable magnetic oil powder to trap and absorb oil that floats on the surface of the water. Once trapped, a magnetic collection belt can efficiently remove the oil, reducing oil contamination down to a parts-per-billion level concentration.” – Wyatt Nelson, Co-Founder of Higea Technologies
Riding the Innovation Wave to Solve Ocean Pollution
Despite ominous data about the harmful impact – and volume – of ocean pollution, there’s a wave of early-stage innovators determined to address the issue. From creating new materials from marine debris to finding innovative, eco-friendly ways of cleaning oil spills, VentureWell is excited about the new technologies designed to combat ocean pollution, and inspired by the inventors driven to maximize their impact through entrepreneurship.
Learn how other innovators in the VentureWell community are addressing water-related issues through innovation and entrepreneurship:
Inventing a Better Way: I-Corps Team Mammoth Trading Develops First Smart Water Market
Drinkwell: Cleaning Water, Generating a Profit
Five Ways Early-Stage Inventors are Tackling the Global Water Crisis