We have a huge problem with UFOs: there are so many of them and they are already among us. These are not little green men with antennas, the hypothetical Unidentified Flying Objects, although they share the same acronym. No, these are the real and extremely dangerous Unidentified Floating Objects. The term refers to the uncountable pieces of plastic that are polluting the seas and oceans of the Planet.
The skipper Andrea Fantini has felt their negative effects firsthand. This was during the Transat Jacques Vabre, the longest and toughest of the transatlantic regattas. It goes from Le Havre in France to Salvador in Brazil and Fantini’s Class 40 Enel Green Power, which was entirely green energy-powered, thanks to Enel’s role as innovation partner, was forced to withdraw off the coast of Portugal when a UFO damaged the rudder. Nor was Fantini’s experience unique; it happened to several other teams too.
A global emergency
If this was just about sporting accidents, then perhaps it wouldn’t be a global emergency. The more serious consequences of plastic pollution are, however, its effect on marine ecosystems, the damage done to the economies of communities who live off fishing, aquafarming and tourism, and the threat to our health through the fish we eat.
"Oceans play an essential role in the life of the Planet and, whether you are a sailor or not, what happens in the sea will sooner or later have repercussions for everyone. It is just that we often don’t consider this and we think we don’t have to pay the price. But we are wrong. It is time to open our eyes, to protest and to make everyone aware of this problem"
Andrea Fantini, Skipper, Class 40 Enel Green Power
Approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the sea every year; there are over 5 billion pieces of plastic floating in the oceans, and the European Commission estimates that there could be more plastic in the seas and oceans than fish by 2050.
For this reason, the theme of this year’s World Oceans Day, which takes place on June 8th, is preventing “plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean.” It’s similar to Earth Day, on April 22nd (which was dedicated to tackling waste caused by products made from petroleum and other environmentally-damaging substances, plastic in particular), in that its aim is to raise public awareness of the problem and to make a call to action.
"World Oceans Day offers an important opportunity for the defence of a sustainable future"
António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations
Enel is doing its part to contribute to this mission, in line with the United Nations 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) - in this case #14 (Life Below Water) – and working to protect the Planet and promote the adoption of business models that unite innovation and sustainability, including the circular economy.
An example of our commitment in this direction is our collaboration with the NGO Liter of Light, as part of our Enabling Electricity programme, which works to recycle plastic bottles into solar lamps, thereby providing clean energy and reducing pollution.
Furthermore, from April 16th to 22nd, we partnered with the “National Geographic Science Festival” in Rome, whose many initiatives included promoting the #PassOnPlastic campaign to encourage giving up plastic in daily life and the search for alternative solutions.
Oceans are a source of energy
Our care towards seas and oceans is also connected to our core activity: the production of electricity. Waves, tides and other types of marine activity have an enormous potential that could theoretically provide the entire world population with entirely clean, renewable energy.
Although marine power is still technologically underdeveloped compared to other sources like the sun and wind, there are many projects developing and they are rapidly multiplying. And where there’s clean energy, there’s Enel.
Enel established the Marine Energy Research and Innovation Center (MERIC) in Chile, with the French industrial group DCNS, and it immediately became a reference point for all South America.
The Center studies everything connected to marine power and its potential impact, looking at every angle: from identifying sites to evaluating resources, from the study of bio-corrosion to environmental impact. The theoretical results of the research are then tested in practical terms using a Wave Energy Converter.
This is just the beginning: the horizons opening up are endless. Tomorrow, the oceans could be a precious resource for energy too. An extra reason to protect them today, especially from UFOs.