After images of a bloodied dolphin wrapped in plastic tore across Norway’s social media feeds earlier in the year, the government brainstormed ways to get rid of the plastic throughout the country’s famous fjords, narrow bodies of water between mountains, according to the New York Times.
Now underwater drones will be deployed in the fjords, particularly the 62-mile long Oslo fjord, to identify trash heaps floating in the water and on sea floors that can be cleaned up by divers and cranes, Oslo’s Port Authority announced this week, the Times reports.
The drones are useful, according to the government, because they’ll be able to expedite clean-up operations. Rather than aimlessly trawling the waters with big ships, the drones can swiftly map where the highest concentrations of waste are, according to Underwater Drone.
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Although Norwegian culture is influenced by the sea — from Vikings lore to the modern fishing industry — fjords have been heavily polluted over the past several decades, according to the Times.
In particular, fjords have become dumping sites for millions of tons of industrial waste, the Guardian reports, which endangers marine life.
And despite Norway’s embrace of other environmental initiatives such as promoting electric vehicles, it’s one of the leading producers of fossil fuels in the world.
The country recently approved plans to drill for oil in the Arctic, despite the extreme sensitivity of the region’s wildlife and the global need to curb fossil fuel production.
Cleaning up plastic waste, however, may be a more straightforward environmental goal for the country than dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.
All around the world, shocking images of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and other bodies of water are prompting government action.
The UN recently proposed a global ban on plastic pollution entering the oceans; Canada is planning to introduce a similar proposal at the G7 gathering later this year; and a range of local, state, and federal governments are enacting targeted and sweeping bans on plastic use.
Stopping plastic production is the best solution for the problem, but it also has to be paired with clean-up efforts. Norway’s underwater drones are merely the latest in a series of high-technology gambits designed to do just that.
For instance, a 22-year old college dropout from the Netherlands is trying to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with massive floating structures.
Elsewhere, more mundane, community-centered efforts are taking place.
In Mumbai, for example, a local activist inspired hundreds of his neighbors to take part in a massive plastic excavation campaign. After 21 months of toiling by hand, 11,684,500 pounds of trash were collected, showing that, sometimes, ordinary people are more effective than drones.
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