In 2001, Akinori Ito founded the Blest Company in Japan. Motivated by declining conventional oil reserves and plastic pollution, Ito wanted to adapt existing pyrolysis technology to create community-scale plastic-to-oil processors that would not require plastic to be pre-treated. Other attempts to make fuel from plastic had produced a sludgy, low-quality fuel. Within its first year, Blest was awarded a grant by the New Energy, Industrial and Technology Development Organization, Japan’s largest public research and development firm.
This past August a different study, from a group of oceanography students from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), UCSD, accompanied by the international organization Project Kaisei’s team, embarked on two vessels, New Horizon and Kaisei , through the North Pacific Ocean to sample plastic debris and garbage. SIO director Tony Haymet described the trip as “ …a forage into the great plastic garbage patch in the north.” To summarize the scientific data collected on the ship, Miriam Goldstein, chief scientist on New Horizon , stated: “We did find debris… coming up in our nets in over 100 consecutive net tows over a distance of 1,700 miles… It is pretty shocking.” She said, “[There is] not a big island, not a garbage dump [that we] can really see easily.” She described it more as a place where large debris floats by a ship only occasionally, but a lot of tiny pieces of plastic exist below the surface of the water. “Ocean pretty much looks like ocean,” she said. “The plastic fragments are mostly less than a quarter inch long and are below the surface. It took at first a magnifying-glass to see the true extent of plastic damage in the North Pacific.”
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