FULL EPISODE: 12/27/20 The Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat, Dr. Janice Brahney on the plastic pollution

GF Default - Study: Plastic degrading in the oceans could be contributing to global warming
GF Default - Study: Plastic degrading in the oceans could be contributing to global warming
Updated: Dec. 26, 2020 at 7:59 PM EST
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed Boyan Slat, the Dutch CEO and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, and Janice Brahney, Assistant Professor at Utah State University, for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, December 27, 2020. The episode focuses on plastics and microplastics in the oceans and in the air.

Boyan Slat, who spoke to Van Susteren from Rotterdam, Netherlands, discussed The Interceptor, a solar-powered barge he and his team invented to collect plastic waste from rivers before it enters the world’s oceans. “We see that 1% of rivers are responsible for about 80% of all plastic leading to the oceans,” said Slat.

Janice Brahney, PhD, an expert on watershed sciences and assistant professor at Utah State University, told Van Susteren: “We’re just starting to understand what the implications of microplastics in every ecosystem are …. for human health or ecological health.”

Interview excerpts are below.

Boyan Slat highlights

On plastics in rivers and use of The Interceptor

Boyan Slat, CEO and Founder, The Ocean Cleanup

So what we see is that rivers are really the main source of plastic leading to the oceans. We see that 1% of rivers are responsible for about 80% of all plastic leading to the oceans. So what we thought was, “Well, if we want to stop more plastic from going into the ocean, why don’t we put systems in the months of those rivers, using solar power, catch the plastic and really stop it from reaching the ocean.

On microplastics in the ocean

Boyan Slat, CEO and Founder, The Ocean Cleanup

“What I think is important to note though is that most of the microplastics that are currently in the oceans, they actually used to be larger objects before they ended up in the ocean. So the fragmentation process of these big objects to microplastics usually happens over the course of decades, really in the middle of the ocean.

On government support for ocean cleanup

Greta Van Susteren

Are you finding that the countries are embracing this, that people are contacting you? Obviously, we contacted you when we saw what you’re doing and I’ve been following it for some time, but are you finding that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for this?

Boyan Slat, CEO and Founder, The Ocean Cleanup

Yeah, so I think yes and no. I think on one hand what we see is the companies and the partners, the governments that we’ve worked with have been really receptive, have been really great partners in intercepting plastic in the rivers where we are already active. But I think still more can be done to really show what’s possible to the other governments and organizations that aren’t yet involved, and that’s what we hope to really achieve in the coming year. And I think that’s something that you right now actually are helping with as well is I think that the more people who know about this, the better. And really demonstrating that say the next 10, 15 Interceptors work really well and really solve the problem for that city or country, I think that’s what’s required to really make this scale around the world.”

On the Pacific Garbage Patch

Greta Van Susteren

The Pacific Garbage Patch is about three times the size of our state of Texas. Do you have any sort of idea or solution or method to collect that plastic?

Boyan Slat, CEO and Founder, The Ocean Cleanup

Well, glad you asked because actually that’s really the other side of the equation of what we’re trying to do. Yes, we need to stop more plastic from going into the oceans. I think the Interceptors will help, I think there’s a lot of other great initiatives on that side as well. But that still leaves the legacy pollution of 60 years of plastic that is already accumulated in the oceans. Of course, most famously the largest accumulation is between Hawaii and California, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So really over the past few years in parallel to what we’re doing on rivers, we’ve developed what we call an ocean cleanup system, which are systems that we actually put in these garbage patches to use the forces of the ocean to allow us to really collect that plastic that’s already in the ocean. And last year we had the first success there. We had a system in the patch collecting plastic, and now we are working towards preparing to really scale this up in the coming years.

Janice Brahney Highlights

On microplastics in the air

Janice Brahney, Assistant Professor, Utah State University

In terms of deposition rates, we found that in Western protected areas, more than 1000 tons are falling per year.

We were also able to show where these plastics are coming from to some extent. So for example, the plastics that fell out with rain were associated with air masses that passed over urban centers. So the number of people that that air mass interacted with before it reached our site influenced the number of plastics we saw in our sample. Similarly, we saw that if there was a lot of dust in our sample, we also saw a lot more plastics. And so this led us to believe that some of these might be coming from agricultural dust.”

On health concerns over microplastics in the air

Greta Van Susteren

“I take it it’s not good to breathe these microplastics. I take it that, that’s not good. I would be suspicious that it wouldn’t be good if it landed on the soil in a farming community. That wouldn’t be particularly good as well and that I would have an impact in other ways on ecosystems. Is that a fair analysis?

Janice Brahney, Assistant Professor, Utah State University

Right. So we’re just starting to understand what the implications of microplastics in every ecosystem are. There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done to fully understand what the implications are for example, for human health or ecological health. We do know that any aerosol tends to have a negative impact on certain individuals. Whether or not plastic is more toxic than a natural aerosol is a question that we don’t really have an answer to yet. And similarly, within the terrestrial environment, we really don’t have a lot of information on what might happen to soil organisms that eat microplastics, for example. But there have been a few studies coming out showing that plastics in soils can change the soil properties in ways that can be detrimental to plants. But again, this is all in the very early stages of research. So we have many more questions than answers at this point.

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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