A Guest Blog on Beach Pollution by Aniket Lila

Micro plastics, as the name suggests are plastic particles .5-5 mm in size, which have become a paramount issue in the marine environment. The biggest source of micro plastic formation is the fragmentation of larger plastic materials like plastic bottles by mechanical forces like waves and photochemical processes in the marine environment. Heavy media attention has also been given to the direct use of industrial abrasives, exfoliants and cosmetic products as a source of micro plastic. Cosmetic products contain micro beads that reach the sea via sewage. Shedding of synthetic fibers from textiles during domestic washing also contributes as a source of micro plastic in the environment. All in all, it has been found that consumer and industrial manufacture of plastic products have been the main source of micro plastic pollution of the marine environment.

Micro plastics have the potential of endangering the lives of many sea creatures. Assuming them to be food, micro plastics are absorbed by many organisms via the digestive tract. Turtles and sea birds can consume micro plastics as well, mistaking it for food. Furthermore, toxic substances like Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) attach to these small particles and enter the food chain. Successive biological magnification would then ultimately be harmful to seafood eaters and have the potential. Plastics have been hypothesized to release internal toxins and adsorbed POPs when exposed to heat and there is a risk of toxins leaching into the hot sand. As a result, micro plastic pollution of coastlines is likely to not only be an eye sore for the average beach goer but potentially a toxic danger after prolonged heat exposure.

This is where Sea Turtles Forever (STF) (www.seaturtlesforever.com) comes into the picture! Sea Turtles Forever has been working in the field of marine sea turtle conservation along the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Oregon for 11 years. STF has designed an easy to use clean up solution for coastal communities to adopt for their beach remediation efforts cleaning the beach of these harmful particles.

STF Microplastic Filtration System is a carbon neutral, manually operated microplastic filtration system designed to remediate a beach environment to its pristine state.  Each system is operated by three users, one to load the filtration system with polluted sand and two to operate the filter as shown in the pictures above allowing clean pristine sand to pass through the filter.


But the current process is very time consuming and laborious, requiring a lot of manpower. In order to come up with a more efficient solution, a group of students, part of the student organization, Engineers for a Sustainable World at Northwestern University are prototyping machines that could be potentially used for more efficient microplastic filtration.

For any information or questions, feel free to contact Aniket Lila at aniketlila2017@u.northwestern.edu.

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Mechanised cleaning of Goa’s Beaches

Goa’s world renowned beaches that attract millions of tourists from around the world will now be cleaned by machines, according to a statement by Tourism minister Dileep Parulekar. 

Once considered pristine, Goa’s beaches are now filled with litter and hence massive mechanised cleaning machines will be put into service to clean Goa’s beaches. The advantages are huge – these specially designed machines are able to clean the beaches faster and more thoroughly than manual cleaning. These machines are not only able to clean larger rubbish such as plastic bags but are also able to suck in smaller pieces of garbage such as cigarette butts. 

While there are many advantages of such cleaning machines, environmentalists fear that the mechanised cleaning of Goa’s beaches could harm the animal life in the sand. Goa’s beaches are home to hordes of tiny sand crabs, which live in the porous sand pockets and environmentalists fear that these crabs that run about on the beach could also be picked up by these large machines. 

Another side effect of these beach cleaning machines is the loss of livelihood for the hundreds of manual beach cleaners who have been employed in the past. Unfortunately, neither the local newspapers nor the Tourism Minister has focussed on this aspect. Often, these beach cleaning personnel are the only breadwinners in the family and this sudden loss of income will definitely have a negative aspect on their ability to survive. It is a shame that in a country of over one billion, India and Goa have to resort to machines replacing people. While the concept of replacing people with machines has been popular in the west where labour is expensive, replacing people with machines seems rather absurd in India and Goa where there is an excess of cheap labour. 

The use of machines to clean up Goa’s beaches also goes to show that the tourists who come to Goa are not conscious enough of their surroundings to take their garbage with them. After smoking their cigarettes, tourists simply stub them out in the sand and leave them there. The same problem is with plastic chip packets and tetra pack juice packets. It is common to see vendors selling throwaway packets of chips and juice at the entrace to the Calangute / Baga beach. The tourists that purchase these packets simply throw them in the sand when they are empty.

While it is admirable that the Goa Tourism Department is making an effort to clean up Goa’s beaches, a concerted effort is required to educate tourists about the importance of not littering and keeping Goa’s beaches clean. Another effective measure is definitely the introducing of more garbage bins on the beach. The last time I walked along the Calangute – Baga beach stretch, I couldn’t find a single garbage bin in which to throw my rubbish.

The most popular beach-belt in Goa, which stretches from Baga beach to Sinquerim beach, is likely to be the first Goan beach where these machines will be tested followed by the Benaulim beach to Utorda beach stretch in South Goa. 

What do you think of the idea of using machines to clean Goa’s beaches ? Do let me know in the comments…

Photo Credit: http://media.mlive.com/baycitytimes/photo/2009/06/beach-cleanup-d1fdb6717509f23e.jpg