The United Nations has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help focus global efforts for a sustainable, healthy, and safe planet for all. These goals range from social issues including quality education and gender equality, to environmental issues such as climate action and responsible consumption and production. The chemical industry has a significant contribution to make for many SDGs, but the science of chemistry helps us achieve all 17.
Goal #14, titled Life Below Water, aims to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.” While there are still many problems facing our water environments, chemists are working to make things better.
Our lakes, streams, and oceans are very important to us for many different reasons. We can get fresh water from streams, and wildlife also drink from streams and lakes. Many people fish or get seafood from our lakes and oceans. Not only do humans and wildlife benefit from water resources, but there are many plants that can survive only in and near bodies of water. Water is a vital resource for a healthy planet and healthy people. We can all do our part to protect freshwater and marine habitats and resources.
Over the years, more and more plastic waste has been polluting our waters. This has been harmful to the fish and other organisms that live in the water. Many accidentally swallow plastic pieces when they mistake it for food. Others get tangled in materials such as fishing line or plastic bags.
There are two main ways to reduce our plastic use and protect “Life Below Water.” The first and most important step is to cut down on all single-use plastic products. There are many reusable alternatives to throwaway plastic products. The second method is to use products made from other materials that are not petroleum-based plastics.
Several companies are working to address plastic pollution. They use technology to create replacements for single-use items, such as straws, by using seaweed or other renewable resources as a starting material. The straws look and feel like plastic straws, but will break down when they are exposed to water for a long time. Therefore, they will not be harmful to sea creatures if those items end up in our waters.
Another technology project is called The Ocean Cleanup, where chemists are working to remove plastic that is already in the ocean. Their idea is to place huge floating barriers in the ocean that are anchored in place so that normal ocean currents will carry the waste plastics into the floats, where they can be collected and removed. It is a huge job, but the floating barriers do not require energy to operate and can be placed in areas where there is a lot of plastic trash.
George Ruger is an Outside Instrument Sales Specialist at PID Analyzers, LLC.