Skip to main content

The other day a conversation about seawater recovery of lithium got me curious on what the latest progress in seawater mineral extraction has been. The world's oceans contain vast, nearly inexhaustible reserves of many different dissolve metals, some very valuable... but most, unfortunately, in parts per billion quantities. This usually prices their recovery at several times higher to orders of magnitude higher than the costs of mining on land.

Don't get me wrong - it actually does work. For example, there have been various pilot projects mining uranium with long plastic ropes lowered into ocean currents, and the concept of using desalination brine for resource extraction is a new hot topic. But so far, extraction of only a few common oceanic minerals have reached commercial viability.

Many common materials, such as plastics, tend to accumulate dissolved ions over time, acting as "chelators". Reversing the process is usually no more complex than a soak in strong acid. While all plastics can chelate to some extent, certain families, such as PAN-based plastics, are more effective than others (a commonly used one for uranium extraction is polyacrylamidoxime). Unfortunately, no matter how good or selective your plastic, the concentrations of the target minerals in the ocean are so low that you need a high surface area spread out over a large area interacting with a lot of water over a long period of time.

In the process of thinking about how one could achieve that, I converged on something.

"What if you released a bunch of floating plastic absorbers into the ocean, then collected them later?"
"No, that'd be known as 'polluting the ocean'."
"Well, what if they were released somewhere that they'd naturally collect themselves, like the North Pacific Gyre?"
"And what, make the Great Pacific Garbage Patch even worse? Isn't there too much plastic there already?"
"Wait a minute... there is, isn't there?"

Could it be? Estimates for the total amount of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre vary wildly, but a common figure cited is 150 million tonnes, largely broken down into tiny (high surface area) bits. Could there really already be 150 million tons of metal-collecting plastic out in the Pacific that's been floating around there for years with a massive surface area amidst vast quantities of water? Plastic that most people would pay to get rid of?

Random plastic trash certainly isn't going to be a good absorber, and it definitely won't be selective absorber - we can't pick and choose what it's going to pick up. Yet it does absorb metals. Quick searches reveal many claims that oceanic plastic has heavy metal concentrations "millions" of times higher than that of sea water. But what does the research say?

Digging, I found this graph in a paper based on floating common plastics in a bay for up to a year in three different locations (labelled CC, SI, and NMF). Each type of plastic is given a color code, but their absorption rates for different metals are surprisingly similar. Using these graphs, we can estimate that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has absorbed somewhere on the order of 7500 tonnes of aluminum, 15000 tonnes of iron, 12000 tonnes of manganese, 900 tonnes of zinc, and 75 tonnes of cobalt. Rather than being locked up in tough-to break-down oxides like most land-mined minerals, these will be present as free chelated metals, and thus relatively cheap to refine.


(Above: Plastic consumption has been connected to population declines in seabird species like Laysan Albatross. Plastic trash in the oceans poses a choking hazard, a risk of digestive blockage, and accumulates toxic organic chemicals and heavy metals.

At current market rates, these metals in the trash would sell for $15m, $6m, $26m, $2m, and $2m, respectively. Now, this doesn't mean that you earn that much; you have to economically justify your refining and especially the cleanup, for which price estimates for the cleanup range from many tens of millions of dollars up into the billions. But it should be pointed out that nobody is proposing mining common, rather cheap minerals like aluminum, iron, manganese, and zinc from seawater, nor moderately expensive but quite rare minerals like cobalt. The focus is on things like uranium and lithium that are unusually common relative to their value.

Unfortunately, concentrations the most desireable elements weren't tested for in this research paper, nor any other paper I've been able to find. But what might we expect from them?

Uranium is of roughly equal abundance to iron in seawater (0.0033 ppm), 60% that of aluminum, 165% that of manganese, and 4100% more than cobalt. It is known to be rather good at absorbing into many plastics. If we take a pessimistic approach and use the ratio for cobalt, we come up with an estimate of 3000 tonnes of recoverable uranium, which at a current market price of $70000 a tonne is worth $210 million. If we instead use the ratio for manganese, we come up with an estimate of about 20000 tonnes of uranium, worth $1.4B.

Now we're getting somewhere.

Lithium is a very abundant element in seawater, at 0.18ppm. If we extrapolate from a similar light reactive metal like zinc, we come up with an estimate of 32400 tonnes recoverable. If we extrapolate from something like manganese, we get over a million tonnes. But I don't think it's realistic to expect that this much of the plastic's weight will end up composed of lithium. If we assume that it caps off at say 15000 tonnes like iron, then at a market rate for lithium metal of $60000/tonne, it'd be worth $900m. For lithium carbonate, it'd be worth half that much. On the other hand, if it truly can collect those higher concentrations of lithium, then the value could easily be in the billions.

The list goes on. Strontium is ridiculously abundant in seawater, at 8.5ppm, and currently sells for about $5k/kg in its metallic form. Rubidium is only slightly less common than lithium at 0.12ppm, and goes for $1.2 million per tonne, although it's a low-demand metal. Molybdenum, a high demand metal, is found at 0.01ppm - double that of aluminum and at $30k/tonne sells for 15 times higher a price. Copper, at 0.03ppm, is as common as iron and at $6k/tonne sells for 20 times its price. Vanadium, slightly less common than manganese at 0,0015ppm, sells for $14k/tonne, over 6 times the price of manganese. At 0.005ppm, high purity cesium metal sells for over $10m/tonne, although it's more commonly found as low purity cesium formate selling for (a still very significant) $100k-200k/tonne. And even gold - yes, gold - is found in earth's oceans. Remember that 75 tonnes of cobalt recoverable from the plastic? There's 60% as much gold in the Earth's oceans as there is cobalt, so if that ratio held and 45 tonnes of gold was recovered, at $50m/tonne it'd add another $2B to the value. If gold was recovered proportional to concentration at the same rate as manganese, the value would be $15B.

Now, to reiterate, just because X value of a metal is present in an available source material doesn't mean you earn X dollars from it. At the very least recovery will cost you something, and recovery might prove in many cases to be more expensive than the value of the metal within. And in this case, we can only speculate at what sort of concentrations of the more valuable elements are available to recover. But with so many minerals that are common in the oceans but rare in the crust, and with the trash accumulating these metals  (making them a hazard for ocean life but a value for us), perhaps it's time we take a closer look at cleaning up our oceans... for a profit.

Originally posted to Rei on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 12:36 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  So how much water would you have to filter (7+ / 0-)

    to collect these particles, and what else would you be filtering out simultaneously, and how difficult would it be to separate?

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 12:56:37 PM PDT

    •  The proposals I've seen for cleaning it up... (11+ / 0-)

      don't actually involve any filters whatsoever. They involve deploying long floating booms to create channels of water. And that's it. Waves laden with plastic particles wash over the booms. The water can freely flow out beneath them, but since the plastic floats, it stays inside.

      The day I'll consider justice blind is the day that a rape defendant's claim of "She consented to the sex" is treated by the same legal standards as a robbery defendant's claim of "He consented to give me the money": as an affirmative defense.

      by Rei on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 01:01:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Combine it with desalinization, sell the salt and (5+ / 0-)

      send the water to California or to the Big Island.

      And I am Kilrain of the 20th Maine. And I damn all gentlemen. Whose only worth is their father's name And the sweat of a workin' man Steve Earle - Dixieland

      by shigeru on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 03:14:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And the cost to transport all this would be (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        maybeeso in michigan

        what?

        •  Compared to the cost of fracking? or the cost of (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mrkvica, ozsea1, JeffW, ModerateJosh

          whatever the heck else get's shoved down our throats or up another orifice without the lubricant this time?

          Can't really be worse than the TOTAL cost of the final stages of petroleum extraction, fracking and coal mining when the ancillary costs such as wars, environmental degradation and human displacement are allowed into the NPV's.

          I guess my question to you is that it is year 7 of the Great Southwestern Drought;suppose you live in Phoenix; for whatever reason you cannot relocate (e.g. drought too extensive;no other state will let you in, etc, etc);your kids are slowly dying from malnutrition and water deprivation; how much would  you have paid  to have had an additional water source for the Desert Southwest?

          And I am Kilrain of the 20th Maine. And I damn all gentlemen. Whose only worth is their father's name And the sweat of a workin' man Steve Earle - Dixieland

          by shigeru on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 01:11:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  AND MY ANSWER TO YOU IS (0+ / 0-)

            WHAT ABOUT MY OWN EXCELLENT SCHEME OF TRAINING HUMMINGBIRDS IN THE AMAZON TO FLY UP INTO THE CLOUDS AND GATHER DROPLETS OF PURE RAINFOREST-TRANSPIRED H2O AND THEN MIGRATE TO LAKE POWELL INTO WHICH THAT MAGNIFICENTLY PURE WATER THEY WOULD DROP?  

            HHMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM???????

            WHAT ABOUT THAT?!?!?!

            THE WORST THING ABOUT YOUR IDEA IS THAT IT DOES NOT INCLUDE THOUSANDS OF MILES OF FLOATING SOLAR FREAKING ROADWAYS CIRCLING EACH GYRE SO THE SOLAR-POWERED DESALINIZED-WATER-DELIVERY TRUCKS CAN ALSO TAKE ICE CREAM CONES TO THE FLYING FISH. HAVE YOU NO IMAGINATION????

             

          •  Or, let's ignore your fatuous straw man (0+ / 0-)

            and remember there are more practical, affordable approaches to the problem.

            You are part of the problem, much more so than I. Tech fanboys have fucked us over and will persist in doing so until they shrivel up.

      •  There is a contraption that looks and acts like a (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        maybeeso in michigan, JeffW

        mini oil refinery that with about 600C temperature and several atmospheres pressure turns most organic waste material into one or more of the following: hot (otherwise potable) water, hydrocarbons,  carbon black (like soot or pulverized coal), assorted minerals (including sea salt and all those assorted metals you are after and fertilizer compounds of nitrogen phosphorus and potassium).  I believe there at least two of them already parked there.  Maybe you could pipe the fresh water to California, sell the salt, and use one of those contraptions to get some sort of hydrocarbon from the plastic and use further processing to separate the various metals from each other.

      •  The Big Island has plenty of water. (0+ / 0-)

        I expect we will be exporting water, not importing it.

        In fact, I own several entire watersheds capable of providing tens of millions of gallons a day. If you need water and have a tanker, PM me.

  •  Fantastic. Now If Research Could Just Come Up With (21+ / 0-)

    some kind of ocean-going renewable-energy-powered collecting device.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 01:05:54 PM PDT

  •  why not create something like this as an addon (7+ / 0-)

    to fresh water creating, carbon dioxide scrubbing energy factories?

    we're going to need them soon.

    -You want to change the system, run for office.

    by Deep Texan on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 01:06:47 PM PDT

  •  What's the waste product from (7+ / 0-)

    soaking these products in strong acids, and what would the clean-up costs be?

    How cost effective would it be to do this if you used up the resource (retrieved the garbage) quickly?

    Since tiny, high-surface area particles work better, would there be an incentive to leave larger pieces in the ocean to be broken up into smaller ones?

    •  The primary waste product... (8+ / 0-)

      ... is the plastic you started with, minus the absorbed heavy metals.  As for the various metal refining processes, that depends on your particular process to separate and precipitate them. But in any situation they're in a far easier to recover state than you'd find bound up in an ore on the ground.

      The day I'll consider justice blind is the day that a rape defendant's claim of "She consented to the sex" is treated by the same legal standards as a robbery defendant's claim of "He consented to give me the money": as an affirmative defense.

      by Rei on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 01:09:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You said: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kharma
        is the plastic you started with, minus the absorbed heavy metals (emphasis added).
        Nothing in your diary shows that waste plastic in
        the ocean recovers, attracts or adsorbs dissolved metals in contained in ocean water.  That effect, upon which you base your diary, does not exist and isn't demonstrated by your diary.
        •  Yes, good question. (0+ / 0-)

          Most of the waste plastic in the ocean is polyethylene and polypropylene. These are known to concentrate toxic polyaromatic hydrocarbons. Would the PAHs be released in the acid wash? If so, what's the plan for dealing with them?

          Metals accelerate the oxidation of these plastics, so often the plastics are adulterated with metal chelating agents to retard this process. Does the presence of these metal chlelators complicate the acid extraction of metals from the plastic waste?

          Much of the plastic in the ocean is colonized by living creatures. What's the plan for them?

    •  $60M wouldn't even pay for the ship to do it. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pigpaste

      Leaching the metals and treating them, refining them, uses enormous amounts of acid. You would need something like a whaling processing ship in size, at a minimum, to process enough trash in a day to make any difference. I don't think it would even pay for the crew.

      And then you still have all those tons of garbage to do something with.

      I would bet there is more metal attached to all that plastic than there is absorbed into it.

      Better just to process that crap into sinkable blocks, or recycled into floatable pontoons.

  •  quick c (5+ / 0-)

    use the lead. There´ll be a U/Pb ratio - i dont know what it is, but U might behave like lead, fow which data is given. U/Pb of seawater you might find quickly, then from the given Pb, the U would follow.

    Li should behave like an alkali so look for Rb or Cs if it was analysed. Hm, wasnt that is more tricky then

    •  it behaves more like Nb or Ta actually, or W (5+ / 0-)

      but I guess you dont have the data for those handily available in such plastic analyses. U is actually a HFSE and sits in the transition elements first subgroups chemically like La, for instance is similar to Y. U should be similar to La and Ce by the way and those as well you might find more often reported in plastic analyses since REE are so often used as tracers. So if you get that and get the (plastic/water) distribution ratio for La or Ce you likely can make a guess at this distribution ratio for U as well.  

      Really?

      Hm, dont La and Ce substitute for Al as well? geochemical similarity breaks down after a while.

      I think I can make a guess. a reference gives me the amount of U in seawater as between 1E-7 and 1E-8 moles per liter, which I (hopefully corretcly) transcribe into about 1.2E-8 gram per gram, or 13 ppb of U. The same reference gives me 1E-10 mol/L Pb, or 0.02 ppb Pb. Thus, U/Pb in OW is 577. This is hopefully qualitatively correct. Then, if your source says Pb is at 1 ppm in the plastic pellets, then U should be at 577 ppm, IF it is not fractionated during chelation. Is it true that there is no fractionation? Well I can test since my source also gives Cd as 6E-9 or 0.67 ppb for a Cd/Pb ratio of 33. Your source gives Cd/Pb in the plastic pellets as roughly 0.001 (1 ppb / 1000 ppb) so this would indicate very strong fractionation, in this case favouring the incorporation of Pb over Cd.

      Thus, alas, it is to be expected that there is also strong fractionation of U/Pb between seawater and plastic, so my method doesnt work.

      a pity :)

      whats with the high Pb in the plastic? Might these numbers actually be influenced by the original trace element content of the plastic itself, ...? In this case you could not really use them to assess seawater scavenging.

      •  They had a graph on that, too :) (6+ / 0-)

        Link

        You can see that the concentrations of all contaminants significantly grows with time. Unfortunately they on't give a T=0 months datapoint, but you can at least see signicant growth from a T=1 month datapoint (remember that it's a logarithmic scale)

        The day I'll consider justice blind is the day that a rape defendant's claim of "She consented to the sex" is treated by the same legal standards as a robbery defendant's claim of "He consented to give me the money": as an affirmative defense.

        by Rei on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 04:15:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  those are even more interesting (4+ / 0-)

          the Pb curves are impressive. For the other elements, the fitted function is a real poor representation of the data. R2 of 0.2-0.3 is not so impressive :) But i like the data! if you take away the very first month, there is practically no time trend for Al, Cr, Fe (while there is for Pb). What would this mean? If it were anorganic one might suggest that the plastic equilibrates to seawater within 1-2 months -- except it clearly doesnt for Pb. How could it not do it for Pb if it does so for the other metals? I suspect that the exchnage processes are simply uncomparable. You call it chelation. To which extent does such plastic serve as substrate for biota? Could it be that one element (Pb) is not involved in the metabolism of little organisms living on the plastic, and indeed gradually reacts with the plastic - while the other three are involved, and therefore show no time trend once the plastic has been colonised by biota?

          thanks for this fascinating theme. Good luck to the scientists who get to work on this. Nice oceanography! (with dark background though)

  •  recovery is a problem indeed (4+ / 0-)

    since you want surface area you want the real fine, disseminated - floating - plastic bits. Those in the micrometer range. They must be ubiquitous but you would have to filter the whole ocean like you were one massive whale.

    Which means ... btw ... might it be an idea to .. have domesticated herds of whales - who do just that, filter the ocean - and then collect the plastic from their dead bodies?

    that might be a reason to tell certain people to not hunt whales to extinction?

    •  Fortunately for this system... (7+ / 0-)

      ... and unfortuantely for the ecosystem as things stand, the plastic is real fine, disseminated floating plastic bits. The water is described by researchers as looking like snowflakes or fish food due to the tiny flakes of plastic (it starts out as larger pieces but they break down due to weathering and photodegradation).

      As mentioned above, the main proposals I've seen for cleanup don't suggest any filtering at all - rather, just letting waves wash over long buoys, relying on the buoyancy of the plastic to keep it in while the water and any sea life can just go back under the buoys.

      The day I'll consider justice blind is the day that a rape defendant's claim of "She consented to the sex" is treated by the same legal standards as a robbery defendant's claim of "He consented to give me the money": as an affirmative defense.

      by Rei on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 04:19:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  plastic is new in the system. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, FarWestGirl, kharma, WisVoter

    If it collects metals, then it depletes the ocean water of such metals. Is the plastic already there in sufficient quantities to have a measurable effect on the metal spectrum of ocean water? If so, then this would be a way to reverse-measure how much is really in the plastic. Such water sampling and analysis might be more easy than a representative plastic sampling, The water itself would be the best integrator.

    but it only works if plastic scavenging has already a measurable bulk effect. Where´s Marine Chemist?

  •  I'd be delighted to contribute (6+ / 0-)

    to a Kickstarter campaign to fund the pilot project!

  •  On the face of it (10+ / 0-)

    I'd think a bench scale recovery project would be worthwhile.

    At a minimum you are getting plastic trash out of the ocean, that ought to be worth a couple of million to gamble with.

    Sieve the fine plastic out of the seawater, when you've recovered a couple tons of plastic, then try and leach the metals out of the plastic, if I understand the  process.

    If you actually recover measurable amounts, scale it up.

    Interesting diary!

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 03:10:47 PM PDT

  •  a plastic collection device has been invented (4+ / 0-)

    and is being tested in the Pacific (link)

    Also it's worth pointing out that trace elements in seawater get concentrated in manganese nodules and crusts on seamounts and the ocean floor. Deep-sea mining has been proposed to recover this resource but it's complicated by environmental concerns and the Law of the Sea. Manganese crusts rich in Pt, Au, Co tec. are abundant on seamounts in the USEEZ.

  •  You said: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl
    Many common materials, such as plastics, tend to accumulate dissolved ions over time, acting as "chelators". Reversing the process is usually no more complex than a soak in strong acid. While all plastics can chelate to some extent, certain families, such as PAN-based plastics, are more effective than others (a commonly used one for uranium extraction is polyacrylamidoxime). Unfortunately, no matter how good or selective your plastic, the concentrations of the target minerals in the ocean are so low that you need a high surface area spread out over a large area interacting with a lot of water over a long period of time.
    Metals that are part of plastics are not present as ions in water sollution, so it is a mistake to assume that a method of uranium ion recovery from solution offers the possibility of recovery metals contained in plastic which will not exhibit the same behavior as metal ions contained in solution.
    •  Could you rephrase? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice, WisVoter

      I'm having trouble understanding what you're trying to say.

      The standard experimental method of seawater uranium production: anchor long fibrous ropes of the plastic polyacrylamidoxime in flowing water for a long period of time, bring back to the surface, clean, soak in an acid solution, then precipitate the uranium from the solution.

      Polyacrylamidoxime is, of course, an excellent, selective uranium chelator. Other plastics are generally either not as good chelators or not as selective. But as the research shows, common plastics in seawater still chelate metals, concentrating them from seawater. And you can still remove them from the plastics by an acid bath and precipitate them.

      Is there a part of this you're disagreeing with? Again, I'm not understanding your post, so if you could rephrase, I'd appreciate it.

      The day I'll consider justice blind is the day that a rape defendant's claim of "She consented to the sex" is treated by the same legal standards as a robbery defendant's claim of "He consented to give me the money": as an affirmative defense.

      by Rei on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 05:19:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
        But as the research shows, common plastics in seawater still chelate metals, concentrating them from seawater.
        No link in your diary demonstrates this effect as claimed.....that trash plastics cause collection of metals dissolved in seawater as a solution.  That is not a valid statement about the claims contained in your diary.  There isn't any basis stated for a practical method to achieve this.

        Metals already contained in plastics do not exist as dissolved ions in an aqueous solution.   There is no chemical-based method that is practical to extract metals from plastic floating in the ocean.   One can use a physical method of collection of plastic particles and attempt to recover metals by full acid digestion....a process that cannot take place while the plastic is floating in the ocean.

        •  Your first paragraph I can understand (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wilderness voice, FarWestGirl

          ... and reply to, but again, I'm not understanding your second paragraph. Are you simply trying to say that one needs to collect the plastic first? If so, I pointed that out several times, and would consider that "a given". That is, in fact, the whole point of this diary - the "two birds with one stone" of cleaning up the ocean's plastic and making a profit at the same time.

          As for your first paragraph, search for the words "this graph" in the diary. I presented another graph from the same paper in the comments showing the time-rate absorption of some of the metals. You don't have to "achieve" anything - it happens on its own.

          That is, if I'm understanding even your first paragraph correctly. Why did you add the words "as a solution" in there? What exactly are you picturing?

          The day I'll consider justice blind is the day that a rape defendant's claim of "She consented to the sex" is treated by the same legal standards as a robbery defendant's claim of "He consented to give me the money": as an affirmative defense.

          by Rei on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 05:55:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  umm, no (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ivote2004, ozsea1
          .a process that cannot take place while the plastic is floating in the ocean.
          Diarist is proposing to remove the plastic from the ocean first
  •  I'm just a poor country socialist, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, pigpaste, kharma

    here's my amateur critique: This idea could in theory "produce" one round of plastic recovery and associated desired element recovery--a monumental challenge but theoretically possible, but possibly prohibitively expensive amd energy inefficient, but it in theory might help pay to clean up a messed up part of the Pacific. But "reproduction" possibly would be the even more monumental and certainly controversial challenge. You'd have to redistribute the contaminated plastic back out to the ocean, undoing the environmental value. Then wait a few decades, then you could do it over again maybe, after killing sealife for the equivalent time. Kind of like the opposite of a glass bottle mandate.

    I'm glad to see you revisit our conversation about lithium in a technical diary. But it does seem that Bolivia does have the by far world's largest by a longshot realistically-obtainable lithium deposits after all. So sooner or later they can expect more attempted capitalist invasion, perhaps in the guise of a neoliberal free trade agreement. As a green global democratic socialist, I hope that if the Bolivian lithium is ever recovered it is done in solidarity with the powerless, in an environmentally-sensitive way, and used in cells that can be recycled much more efficiently than putting out into the ocean billions of pieces of plastic.

    Which raises another technical question. What is the recycling potential of a lithium battery? I'm totally ignorant of this, and I know you're a guru.

    garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

    by Galtisalie on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 05:28:25 PM PDT

  •  I tweeted your article to a few folks (5+ / 0-)

    who work to recycle plastic waste or have similar interests that I know about. I suspect there are many more.

    @DavidKatzEO

    @noaacleancoasts

    @PlasticBank

    @TreeHugger

    Solutions. :) Thanks for developing this idea and writing about it!

    I'm on Twitter: ThisMagicalEarth@MagicalEarth

    by ParkRanger on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 10:59:10 PM PDT

  •  I just thought of this (3+ / 0-)

    I'm on Twitter: ThisMagicalEarth@MagicalEarth

    by ParkRanger on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 11:05:12 PM PDT

  •  Who would think (0+ / 0-)

    That the trash would be collecting the heavy metals that are being spewed out?

    This is a novel idea, whose time may have come.



    Women create the entire labor force.
    ---------------------------------------------
    Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 07:07:13 AM PDT

  •  quite interesting. 1 stone, 2 birds. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SGA
  •  However, mining the ocean floor for rare minerals (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SGA

    would be catastrophic to life in the ocean, adding to the already incredible ecological pressures, such as acidification, Fukushima dumping radiation into the Pacific (still is, ask the Alaskan fisher folks about their catches lately), and ongoing chemical dumping by corporations, and....sonic testing for oil reserves.

  •  Great diary. One recommendation: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rei

    Should note a trigger warning somewhere in advance of the dead seabird pic.  That shook me up.

    Thanks for the information and speculative discussion, good stuff Rei!

    Not all people are human; not all humans are people.

    by Jon Sitzman on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 09:41:18 AM PDT

  •  That picture of the bird cant be real. (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think it works like that.  I'm pretty sure birds don't have open cavities in their body that plastic just collects in.  Looks like someone cut open a dead bird and put a bunch of plastic in it.

  •  identifying the resource is only the first step (0+ / 0-)

    so we have ample reason to believe that plastics in the pacific gyre are chelating metals from seawater. the next steps are getting those plastics to a place where they can be extracted, extracting them, dealing with the waste stream, and distributing the recovered metals.

    the biggest challenge is probably the gyre's location. magnesia seawater production works because it uses a shoreline facility that pumps in huge quantities of ocean water, and precipitates it with calcium hydroxide. they're simple and easy to maintain because you basically only need big tanks and pipes.

    to make use of oceanic plastic chelation, you either need to bring your facility to the waste, or bring the waste to land for processing.  to bring the water, assuming you had a modest processing capacity of 30 million gallons/day, you would need to fill an oil tanker every five days and need some facilities to fill the tanker at the gyre site.

    it may make more sense to site the processing facility at the gyre. perhaps you could cheaply get some decommissioned oil platforms and convert them. being out in the ocean means very little regulation of your waste streams or pollution.

    freedom isn't free, but it isn't dumb either.

    by astro on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 04:12:54 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site