MAKE A WAVE
It is estimated that up to 12 million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans every year. The organization everwave addresses the problem from all sides.
5:50 a.m., Bali, Indonesia: The air tastes salty, the sun is just rising and there is a light breeze. A group of tourists and Balinese people have arranged to go surfing. The waves are top notch. Obviously they caught the ideal day. The mood is cheerful as the group paddles out. But they quickly realize that nothing will come of the plan. What they find are not waves of water, but of garbage. Huge waves of trash!
Although this is a fictional scenario, it could become a reality very soon. The coasts off Bali are exemplary for the whole world. In addition to surfers, plastic parts are increasingly riding the waves of the sea. Plastic is omnipresent.
Marcella Hansch noticed that too – and in 2014 she laid the foundation for the organization everwave, which now has 1000 members . The aim of this is to free the oceans from plastic pollution and to protect the environment from further damage. In the meantime, the association has been supplemented by a start-up. Both are not only at the forefront of tackling the plastic challenge, they’ve also started a wave — a wave of engagement.
“It’s not a topic that takes place far away from Germany or Europe. Plastic waste can now be found everywhere. It’s no longer possible to hide it,” explains Clemens Feigl, co-founder and CMO, as head of everwave ‘s marketing department. “That’s why Marcella didn’t ‘just’ want to graduate in 2014. She wanted to start something.” everwave
found its origins at the RWTH Aachen University in Hansch’s master’s thesis. The 34-year-old designed a sea platform – a garbage-sucking island, so to speak – that was supposed to eliminate one of the great garbage patches in the Pacific, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. With her vision of cleaning up the world’s oceans, Hansch quickly found some comrades-in-arms. In 2016 they founded an association together – at that time under the name Pacific Garbage Screening. Since then, the organization has been able to inspire numerous other people for their idea. With great drive, a lot of know-how and a common vision, it was decided in 2018 to found an additional start-up to realize the plan.
“We take a holistic approach. The mixture of technology, sensitization and educational work is essential. In principle, we are a self-contained wave, which is why we changed our name to everwave ,” explains Feigl. Accordingly, the organization is not just limited to garbage fishing, but wants to tackle the problem from all sides. It is based on these three pillars.
Although the original plan for the sea platform is currently on hold, many other projects and ideas have been added over the years. In the meantime, the technological solutions range from plastic upcycling through bacteria (i.e. the upgrading of recyclable materials) to sophisticated collection boats and systems to the diverse use of artificial intelligence. The latter in particular is of particular importance.
Everyone knows how annoying and exhausting it is when you’re looking for something but can’t find it – you have to laboriously go to and check every single place. everwave faced a similar problem, when it came to finding the largest garbage hotspots in bodies of water as quickly as possible in order to eliminate them. But thanks to the ingenuity of those involved, a solution was found. The start-up uses drones and equips them with image recognition software. This allows the plastic waste hotspots to be identified in no time at all, after which the waste collection boats can start working. Since most of the waste in the seas is washed up via the rivers, this cleaning work is mainly concentrated on running waters.
But everwavedoes not see itself as a mere garbage collection company. “As soon as the garbage gets onto the boat, it is scanned and evaluated. This allows us to use tangible data to draw the authorities’ attention to abuses,” explains Feigl. It is important here, he emphasizes, that technology is always only a means and never an end. He hopes: “Ideally, our technologies will no longer be needed.”
In order to get not only artificial intelligence, but also people to collect garbage, the second and third pillars of everwave are indispensable: raising awareness and educational work. As a basis for this, the organization has adopted a sentence by behavioral researcher Konrad Lorenz: “You only protect what you love, you only love what you know.” The “EmergenSEA Kit” – an environmental education kit fromeverwave – for schools and companies inspires love for and spreads knowledge about the sea. The mascots Lisa Leuchte and Tessa Tinte playfully explain what plastic is all about and how we can protect our environment from it.
The organization created a permanent crowdfunding website especially for this kit. Anyone can donate an “EmergenSEA Kit” to the local school. Here, too, everwave plays an active role, for example by promoting companies to equip entire regions with this kit. “We would prefer to distribute the suitcase to institutions across the board. Unfortunately, these are often very slow,” explains Feigl.
Last but not least, many lectures, discussions and rounds of talks will be held to further publicize the topic of plastic. Both analogue and digital. “We open our hands invitingly, but never raise the index finger,” sums up Feigl. One thing is clear: even if there are still a few obstacles to overcome, the rolling wave is already too big to stop.