Saturday, April 20, 2024

Combating plastic pollution and sargassum: the Fournier Formula


Canadian tourist Michel Fournier spoke to The San Pedro Sun on Tuesday, February 25th about a unique solution to two problems on the island: plastic pollution and sargassum. It’s his second visit to San Pedro and he’s seen an increase in the garbage buildup around the island and sargassum washing up on the beachfronts. He believes that instead of tackling them as two separate issues, they should be combined. His solution? A solar powered plastic extruder. Currently, solar powered plastic extruders are available but aren’t commercially produced.
Plastic extrusion is a high-volume manufacturing process in which raw plastic is melted down and molded into materials/items such as pipes, tubing, deck railings, window frames, wire insulations, and sheeting. The process begins with placing plastic material into the extruder’s barrel, where it is gradually melted by the mechanical energy produced by the turning screws and heaters along the barrel. The molten plastic is then molded into different shapes during the cooling process. With his proposal, plastic materials should be collected from around the island, especially from stakeholders most affected by the sargassum (beach front properties). Then, the materials collected would be processed by the extruder and its byproduct then used to build plastic barriers that would be installed to prevent the sargassum from washing up to shore. Some resorts already have this method in place with PVC pipes, but Fournier’s proposal sees the plastic pollution being not only reduced but repurposed to battle the sargassum that has been a growing problem since 2014. He also suggested that the plastic barriers would make collecting and disposing of the sargassum easier, since it would not wash up on the beach and decay, causing a foul odor and unsightly appearance. “They’re running out of places to dispose of sargassum, I was disturbed when they piled it outside my window”, he said.
“As it stands now, everybody is losing, tourists are going elsewhere, business is down, and jobs are vanishing. I now have friends of mine going to other places, I was almost one of them”. He believes this problem will only get worse, so something must be done now. He commented on how expensive and ‘never-ending’ the cost of daily beach clean-up seemed. His solution would be cost-effective as it would require a one-time investment into the extruder, as opposed to daily clean ups that are geared towards short-term effectiveness.
This is just one of many proposed solutions that have been considered since the issue was recognized in 2014. Most recently, St. Lucia based company Algas Organics’ CEO Johanan Dujon held a meeting for stakeholders on Wednesday February 27th, at the Sunbreeze Hotel offering his company’s services. His process involves collecting the sargassum in large amounts using machinery and processing the seaweed into fertilizer and bio pesticides. In May 2019, Mexican entrepreneur Omar Vasquez Sanchez suggested using the sargassum as bricks to build houses as he had done for himself. The sargassum seaweed crisis continues to affect the coasts of many countries within the Caribbean Sea, southern Mexico, and the Central American region.

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