Friday, 23 December 2016

Festive beverages for winter warming

You all know, that we love our coffee here at Water Cooler Today. But we’ll be honest, we’re getting a creeping festive feeling. We’ve begun to look at our cup of joe, and wonder how to Christmas the situation up. We’ve found our favourite Christmas drink recipes to share with you this holiday season. We may have even found a few cocktails to kick your Christmas parties off in style….

Warm Christmas drinks

Hot toddy

Place a tablespoon of honey, and if desired a shot of whisky, in a mug. Add two cloves and half a cinnamon stick, and add boiled water. Add sliced lemon, and a smidgeon of lemon juice.

Mulled mead

Place cider, brandy, ginger, a cinnamon stick, apple juice, and cloves in a saucepan, simmer and add lemon peel. Sieve the lemon peel when infused.

Gingerbread latte

Brew a nice strong coffee. Pour half a cup into a bowl, add one tablespoon of black treacle, half a teaspoon of ground ginger, a dusting of nutmeg, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, a tablespoon of maple syrup, and a dash of vanilla extract. Give this a whisk, and halve between two cups, top off the concoction with heated milk.

Mulled wine

Heat a few bottles of good quality red wine in a pot, with six tablespoons of honey, an orange studded with cloves, sliced oranges and lemons, a cinnamon stick, and a smattering of ground ginger. Simmer this mixture for around 20 minutes.

Hot buttered rum

Beat a stick of butter in with some grated orange zest, a dash of nutmeg, half a cup of demerara sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of ground ginger. Whisk in three tablespoons of black treacle. Pour this mixture evenly between four cups and top off with boiling water and a dash of orange juice.


Place a cup of double cream, two cinnamon sticks, a dash of vanilla essence, three cups of milk, and a teaspoon of grated nutmeg in a saucepan. Boil and remove from the heat. In a separate bowl, beat five egg yolks and a cup of sugar. Whisk in your heated mixture and pop in the fridge overnight. Beat five egg whites in a separate bowl until peaks form, fold in your refrigerated mixture and serve.

Cool Christmas drinks

Christmas Alexander

Place two measures of cognac, two tablespoons of double cream, five tablespoons of crème de cacao, and two tablespoons of the milk of your choice in a cocktail shaker, add ice cubes and give it a shake. Pour the mixture out into two cocktail glasses.

 Christmas punch

Place two cups of pomegranate juice, one cup of vodka, one cup of orange liqueur, one cup of cranberry juice, one cup of sparkling water, and the juice from five lemons into a large bowl. Mix, and add half a cup of agave syrup, add ice cubes and enjoy.

Gingerbread Bellini

Mix the juice from one lemon, one cup of hazelnut liqueur, a tablespoon of ginger cordial, and a dash of cinnamon in a small bowl. Separate into four champagne glasses and top off with Prosecco or champagne.

Kir Royale

Chill four champagne glasses, place a tablespoon of raspberry liqueur in each glass. Top each glass with champagne, and place two or three frozen raspberries into each glass.

Needless to say, enjoy these Christmas drinks responsibly! All of us at Water Cooler Today wish you a happy, restorative, and peaceful holiday season. We can’t wait to talk water with you in 2017.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The A-Z of Water: D & E

There's no way around it, water can be a complex area to know. There's lots of keywords and terms bandied about by experts, that even we find confusing on occasion! To this end, we will be bringing you the A-Z of water terms, bringing you the secret, technical, and quirky language connected to H20.

We helped you B-lieve in the power of language, by C-ing even more water words last week (we’re sorry, we have a pun problem). This week we’re bringing you our favourite D and E water words.

Dam: (Geography) Artificial barrier or obstruction which impounds or diverts water

Dap: (Language) To dip lightly or quickly into water

Dessication: (Geology) Loss of water from pore spaces of sediments

Dew: (Language) Tiny drops of water that form on cool surfaces overnight

Divining rod: (Geology) Forked branch or stick believed to indicate subterranean water

Doldrums: (Geography) A region of ocean near the equator

Dowser: (Geology) Person using a divining rod

Drawdown: (Hydrology) Lowering of the surface of a body of water by releasing water

Duct: (Geography) A tube or passage in a building or machine for air or liquid

Eagre: (Hydrology) A high, often dangerous, wave

Embankment: (Geography) Material raised above the natural surface of the land used to contain, divert, or store water

Englacial: (Geology) Located or occurring within a glacier

Eupotamic: (Biology) Thriving in both flowing and still fresh waters

Eutrophic: (Hydrology) Water that is rich in nutrients

Evapotranspiration: (Biology) Evaporation of liquid plus transpiration from plants

We hope you've enjoyed this dap into water words, and it hasn't left you in the doldrums. Have we missed your favourite? Let us know what it is!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Why does my coffee taste funny?

Coffee flask
Have you ever brewed a steaming cup of coffee, allowed the gorgeous coffee aroma to waft over you, lifted the cup to your mouth, had a sip and… it’s rank? Your morning is ruined, you’re lacking your caffeine buzz, and you need about ten gallons of water to wash the taste out. Oh, my friend, I know this pain well. But do not fear, I am here to make sure you never experience this trauma again, I am here to improve the taste of your coffee.

The perfect cup of coffee is a subtle balance of a variety of factors, if just one is off kilter, it affects your entire cup. Today, we are going to be talking coffee beans, water quality, and preparation.  

Coffee beans

First thing’s first, the absolute foundation of your brew. The coffee beans. Are you choosing the right beans for you? There are two main types of beans available; Coffea Arabica, and Coffea Robusta. Robusta is the bean with the caffeine punch, it contains 2.7% caffeine content, compared to the Arabica’s measly 1.5%. But this caffeine comes at a cost, namely, the taste. Some people find the Robusta bean a little bitter (some describe it as tasting slightly burnt). Consider whether you prefer something strong and punchy (Robusta) or smooth and sweet (Arabica) when picking out your beans.

The next big ticket item is the grind of your beans. The coffee boffins advise that you buy whole beans, and grind these at home for freshness, as coffee oils (where the flavour lives) evaporate quickly once the coffee is ground. The size of your grind is important (no jokes, please), if your coffee is too fine, you risk a bitter brew, as the coffee oils will be too exposed to the water. If it isn’t fine enough, you’ll lack that lovely coffee flavour. If in doubt, ask the staff at your local coffee supplier what the best grind is for the beans you’re buying and method you use for prep.

Water quality

Water carafe
In the Water Cooler Today meet ups, the right water for your coffee is an area of much contention! A properly extracted cup of coffee is 98.85% water, so the type of water you use is super important. To ensure a flavourful coffee, there must be mineral content in your water, but more importantly, it must be the right combination of minerals. Too low a mineral content (you would find this in distilled water), and you’ll have a bitter cup of coffee. High bicarbonate or sodium levels will also alter the taste of your coffee. Interestingly, many bottled mineral waters are relatively high in sodium, as well as water that has been treated by water softeners, so avoid using these to brew your coffee.

The closest we get to consensus here at Water Cooler Today, is that hard water makes a lovely cup of coffee. It has a lot of the minerals that bring out the flavour in coffee beans, such as magnesium and calcium, and best of all, it’s free from the tap! If you want to delve a little further into coffee and water, check out our previous blog post here.

The prep

Whether you have a big fancy machine, a French press, or you shove instant coffee in a mug and add water (please don’t do this), there are a few ground rules. Always, always, always, use fresh cold water. Do not reheat water, or store water in the fridge. Both these processes deplete the oxygen bubbles in the water that enhance the flavour of your coffee beans. Ensure your water is heated between 194 – 206 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal flavour distribution.

Now, we shouldn’t have to tell you this last point, but we will, ensure your equipment is clean! Built up coffee granules in the corners of your equipment will give your brew quite the tang.

Take a pause

Finally, give yourself the time to drink your cup of coffee. We are all guilty of typing with one hand, and knocking back coffee mindlessly with the other. Take five minutes to sit away from your screen and enjoy the lovely beverage you’ve created. You’ll notice the taste so much more, and your brain will thank you for the break!

Friday, 16 December 2016

The A-Z of water: B & C

There's no way around it, water can be a complex area to know. There's lots of keywords and terms bandied about by experts, that even we find confusing on occasion! To this end, we will be bringing you the A-Z of water terms, bringing you the secret, technical, and quirky language connected to H20.

We got off to ‘A’ phenomenal start last week with the ‘A’s of water (see what we did there?!). This week it’s time to switch to plan B, so we can C how to talk water (we have so many alphabet puns to get through here).

Baseflow: (Geology) Streamflow coming from ground water seepage into a stream

Bathe: (Language) Wash with water

Bathometer: (Geology) An instrument used to measure the depth of water

Bathymetry: (Geology) The measurement of large bodies of water

Bedew: (Language) To wet with

Benthic : (Oceanography) The bottom of lakes or oceans

Benthos: (Biology) All plants/animals living on or associated with the bottom of a body of water

Besprinkle: (Language) Sprinkle all over with small drops

Bifurcate: (Geology) Dividing structure which splits the flow of water

Billabong: (Geology) A dead end channel extending from the main stream of a river

Billow: (Language) A large wave or swell of water

Blear: (Language) To dim with water or tears

Brackish: (Food) Having a salty taste

Calf: (Geology) A large floating chunk of ice

Canal: (Geography) Waterway

Conduit: (Geography) A channel for conveying water

Confluence: (Language) The act of flowing together

Contrail: (Language) A visible trail of streaks of condensed water

We hope you've enjoyed your besprinkling of water language this week. Which is your favourite water word? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Birch water: Super drink or super faddy?

In recent months, you may have noticed small clear glass bottles in the supermarket fridge, alongside your standard plastic bottles. I'm talking about birch water, the new, so called, 'super-drink'. It's usually over double the price of your bog standard mineral water, and it tends to be about half the size. So what's the fuss all about? Stick with us, and we'll tell you.

The lowdown

Simply put, birch water is sap directly tapped from birch trees. Birch water is naturally fermented, and can only be collected for one month of the year, this is generally in early spring. Traditionally, birch water has been enjoyed in Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine. In the past year or so, birch water has begun to creep into the UK and US markets, to the point where you can now pick it up alongside your sandwich at Boots.


Birch water has been touted as the cure all for everything from infertility to gout. But what benefits accompany that astronomical price tag?

Birch water, undeniably, packs quite the punch in chemical make up. This beverage contains (deep breath before reading all this); 17 amino acids, minerals, enzymes, proteins, heterosides, antioxidants, and vitamins. Now, that all sounds impressive, but what action do these buzzwords actually add up to?

Birch water is proven to detoxify, cleanse, and purify, it has great natural anti-inflammatory properties that will take care of your joints and bones. The xylitol in birch water will also help you to maintain a neutral pH level in your mouth, and prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth.

Are you fed up with all this health talk already? Just one more I promise, and it's a good one. Birch water is isotonic, which means it is about equal in concentration to your body fluids. The isotonic properties of birch water allows it to provide you with rapid hydration and electrolyte replacement. This makes birch water a great drink for replenishing after a heavy workout... or after drinking a few too many!

Pour it up

Usually, we shy away from the old, 'superfood' label, but we have to admit, there's a lot of good stuff in birch water. If you fancy trying this tipple, you can find it in your local supermarket or chemist, or even on Amazon. Do you already sip this tree juice on the regular? Let us know if you've noticed a difference to your health in the comment section below!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Hard water: Hard to deal with?

We all know the type of water that runs through our pipes, hard, soft, or somewhere in between. The real question is: what does it mean, and more importantly, does it matter? Drinking water in the UK is generally classified as 'very hard' (with a few exceptions in places such as Cornwall, Devon, and Wales), so in this blog, we'll be focusing on hard water.

Surprisingly, hard water is water with high mineral content. Hard water is produced when the natural path of water is through limestone and chalk deposits. This gives us water than contains dissolved compounds, these tend to be calcium or magnesium compounds. That, in a nutshell, is what makes our water 'hard'.

What does hard water do?

So, now we know what hard water is, but what does it do? The easiest way to spot hard water, is to try and lather soap in it. The dissolved calcium and magnesium ions in hard water make it more difficult to create a lather, instead forming soap scum. This means you'll need more soap when doing the washing up or washing your hair, and it may leave that slimy soap layer around your plug holes. You know the one.

Another sure-fire sign of hard water is the limescale it creates. For those amongst us lucky enough to have never dealt with limescale, limescale is a chalky white substance that forms in your kettle, boiler, and pipes. It is left there when hard water evaporates, leaving behind calcium carbonate (a.k.a. limescale) deposits. This can clog up your plumbing and restrict the flow of water. Limescale costs millions by clogging up industrial machines every year.

Hard water and our bodies

Less studied is the effect that hard water has on our bodies. Now, it has been linked to all sorts of phenomena, with some camps swearing it causes eczema and acne (these links have not been proven). Here's what we do know, hard water can make shampoo tougher to lather and rinse, meaning your hair can be a little duller than you might like. Studies have also linked hard water to the irritation of psoriasis in infants.

Give us the good news

We've given hard water some hard flak here (do excuse the pun), but what's the good news? Well, most people prefer the taste of hard water, agreeing that soft water can taste a little salty due to the increased sodium levels in soft water.

Calcium and magnesium are part of our dietary requirements, and hard water can be a great source of both, saving you mega bucks on supplements and health drinks. Some studies have even correlated hard water and lower cardiovascular disease mortality. Pour us a glass already!

To conclude

Your hard water lesson for today is complete! What do you think, is hard water a benefit or an issue? Let us know in the comment section below!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

The A-Z of water: A

There's no way around it, water can be a complex area to know. There's lots of keywords and terms bandied about by experts, that even we find confusing on occasion! To this end, we will be bringing you the A-Z of water terms, bringing you the secret, technical, and quirky language connected to H20.

In the words of the great Julie Andrews, 'Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start', today, we'll be covering the A words!

Accretion  (Hydrology) The process of accumulation by flowing water

Adfluvial: (Natural science) Migrating between lakes and rivers or streams

Aedile: (History) Elected official of Ancient Rome who supervised the water supply

Aerate: (Chemical) To supply or charge a liquid or body of water with gas

Alluvial: (Hydrology) Process/materials association with transportation or deposition by running water

Alluvion: (Hydrology) The flow of water against a shore or bank

Altum Mare: (History) A term used in old English law referring to the high or deep sea

Anabranch: (Geology) A diverging branch of a river, which then re-enters the main stream

Aneroid: (Chemical) Not using liquid

Anhydrous: (Chemical) Without water

Aquaduct: (Construction) Pipe/channel that transports water from a remote source

Aquanaut: (Hydrology) A person trained to live in underwater installations

Aquifier: (Geology) Soil or rock that stores/ transmits water

Aquifuse: (Geology) Formation that can't store/transmit water

Arroyo: (Geology) A water carved channel or gully in a dry country

Asperse: (Language) To sprinkle

Attenuation: (Hydrology) The diversion or slowing of the flow of water

There you have it, our A's of water. Which is your favourite water A word? We're loving 'alluvion'!

The history of sparkling water: What’s behind the bubbles?

Carbonated water

Sparkling, carbonated, fizzy, soda. Whatever you want to call it, we all know the fizzy sensation that comes with drinking a glass of the stuff, or as my friend calls it, ‘the fizzy burn’. What you might not know, is how we worked out how to make this refreshment.
Other drinks have been fizzy for far longer than water, many alcoholic beverages, such as beer and hampagne, have been carbonated through the fermentation process for centuries. Records show a chap called Christopher Merret created sparkling wine for the first time in 1662 (We are all very grateful to Christopher for this, I’m sure!).

When it comes to fizzy water, we have to send our gratitude to Joseph Priestly. In 1767, Priestly suspended a bowl of water over a beer vat in a brewery in Leeds, and dripped sulphuric acid onto chalk over the top, he discovered that this infused the water with carbon dioxide. In 1772, he released a paper describing this process as, ‘Impregnating water with fixed air’, and sparkling water was born.

Carbonated water
Super fizzy sparkling water
In the late eighteenth century, Johann Jacob Schweppe (recognise the name?) developed the first practical process to mass manufacture carbonated mineral water in Geneva based on Joseph Priestly’s research, finding the Schweppes Company in 1783. It eventually became popular in the UK, with King William IV even favouring the fizzy refreshment.
The introduction of carbonated water into mainstream society fundamentally changed the way that people drank. Previously, alcohol had been drunk straight, with no mixers or dilution. Post introduction, people began mixing their spirits with this carbonated water, and thus making it more socially acceptable to drink alcohol.

The sparkling water drank in those days probably tasted a little different than we are used to today. Many chemicals were added to the drinks to act as preservatives. In fact, up until World War 2, carbonated water was known as, ‘Soda water’, in the USA, due to the sodium salts it tended to contained. This is why Americans still refer to fizzy drinks as ‘soda’ today.

What's in your coffee?

What's in your coffee?

Admit it, you’re a coffee snob. Like me, you know exactly what beans are going in your cup of joe. You know where they’ve been grown, and that the people growing them have been paid fairly. But here’s a question, do you know what water is making your coffee? Your average cup of black coffee is made up of 98.75% water (you can definitely count this towards your eight glasses of water a day!). So, the quality of the water you use can make or break your beverage.

Now, the water best suited to your coffee is very much dependent on how you take it, the optimal water is different for brewed coffee and espresso. Whilst the water you use in your espresso will not affect your drink too much, the water you use in your brewed coffee matters. The flavour of coffee is contained within the oils of the beans themselves, this is bought out in the preparation. When you mix your coffee grounds with hot water, the heat and minerals in the water work together to extract the coffee flavour you know and love.

To ensure a flavourful coffee, there must be mineral content in your water, but more importantly, it must be the right combination of minerals. Too low a mineral content (you would find this in distilled water), and you’ll have a rather bitter cup of coffee. High bicarbonate or sodium levels in your coffee will also skew the taste of your coffee negatively. Interestingly, many bottled mineral waters are relatively high in sodium, as well as water that has been treated by water softeners, so avoid using these to make your morning coffee (or your elevenses coffee, or lunchtime coffee, mid-afternoon coffee, I could go on…).

So, what is the optimal water for your cup of coffee? The answer may surprise you. The best water for your coffee is hard water. This is water that is rich in magnesium and calcium, which helps to bring out the best in coffee flavouring compounds. It may surprise you to hear, that many of your favourite coffee shop prepare your drink with the stuff that comes straight out of the tap. Unfortunately, the quality of tap water varies regionally, and across time depending on rain fall. Your best bet would be to choose the right water filter, this would be one that limits flavour damaging minerals such as sodium and bicarbonate, whilst allowing magnesium and calcium through.

If all of this chemical talk is a bit much for you, just follow this simple rule. Fresh coffee needs fresh water! If water is left out too long, or is heated and cooled, it will lack the dissolved air that is important to the taste of coffee. Your flavour needs room to develop.

So there you have it, may your cup of coffee be every flavourful!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The health risks of chlorinated pools

When you combine water with sunlight and open air, life tends to  happen. Now, that’s an amazing thing, but far from ideal if you want to use a body of standing water for anything sanitary. For decades, there’s been a pretty clear cut solution to this – chlorine.

While some are salted, most swimming pools are chlorinated. Once chlorine solution is added to water, it breaks down into hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions, which attack the lipids in bacterial cell walls. This oxidises the cells and renders them inert. It’s a remarkably effective process, but it makes the water toxic.

If you’ve ever swallowed a mouthful of pool water, you’ll know that it’s a thoroughly unpleasant experience, accompanied by a lot of coughing and gagging. That’s not actually anything to do with the chlorine, though. Even in a heavily chlorinated pool, the rate is about 2 parts per million, so even if you drank the whole pool, you wouldn’t get chlorine poisoning. What would poison you, would be all the nasty bacteria that chlorine can’t kill.

We have to examine the health risks of swimming in a chlorinated pool on a regular basis, as many people are currently doing, either to deal with the summer heat or because watching the Olympics has made them feel particularly out of shape. So, is there any danger of ill-health as a result of all this splashing around?

It’s still a debated subject, but to suggest that there’s no risk would be very naïve. One Belgian study, conducted in 2009, found that teens who very regularly swam in chlorinated pools were at higher risk from asthma and other allergies. In particular, the risk of hayfever doubled. Another study found, that when chlorine combines with urine, it was develop an irritant called trichloramine, which could well cause damage to the cellular walls which protect the lungs. It’s been theorised that the presence of this irritant could be putting children at greater risk of asthma.

Indoor pools have their own inherent issues, due to the fact that they are an enclosed space. Chloramines release gas into the air, and if it gets trapped in such a space, people will inevitably breathe it in. The build-up of chloramines in the air can be accelerated by the surface of the water being broken, and that’s kind of a given at a busy pool. All indoor pools are required to have some kind of ventilation system, but their effectiveness can vary dramatically. Inhale enough and you could be at risk of respiratory irritation, same as if you swallowed the water.
Fundamentally, most of the issues caused by chlorinated water are more due to the sanitation of the pool in question. If a lot of people are peeing in it, or doing anything else similarly disgusting, the health risk of being in or even near that water obviously rises. Equally, if the pool isn’t cleaned regularly or excess chlorine is pumped in to account for the unsanitary water, that’s also bad news.

The bottom line is this – if you’re going to swim regularly, do some serious research on how well maintained the pool is, and keep an eye on it when you’re there. Olympic or athletic swimming pools tend to be a better bet, simply because there’s more money involved. If you have children, it’s almost better to (if you can afford to) get your own above ground pool and use that; public recreational pools are often filthy during the busy summer months. In any case, chlorine is an excellent disinfectant, you needn’t worry about that, it’s just the people who use the pools you need to be careful of.

What's in a wave?

Imagine looking out at sea,  waiting for that moment, a split second where instinct kicks in and says 'GO', tunnel vision on the patch of blue that’s gargling into adolescence and then catching it as it grows into adulthood.  You can’t tame it, with instinct and your surfboard you’re looking to own it at the expense of it possibly engulfing you; you do this with instinct and your surfboard.

It seems that good surfers have a keen eye for spotting where and when the perfect wave will break. The surfer uses their instinct to see the future of the landscape, but what is it that creates that perfect wave? 

The surfer’s perspective

Sat out upon the rolling sea, from the surfer’s perspective, the landscape at that point is an endless blue littered with the froth created by the wind chopping up the surface of water - these are called white-caps.

The whitecaps can form crests giving the wind more surface area to work with, creating a peak. Those small peaks start moving away from the wind, expending a bit of its energy by turning its choppiness into a nice rounded wave, which is called a swell. 

At this point it seems pretty weak and unassuming, as all that energy is underwater. This energy becomes apparent when the waves get closer to the shore and starts making contact with the land underneath. As the wave begins encroaching upon the land the wave's energy is forced upward above the water surface, the front of the wave slows before the back of the wave causing to break; here we have the rideable wave.

The shape of the land beneath the water has a say in how the wave turns out; if the land is steep the wave will crash creating a barrel wave, if the slope of the land is more gradual then the wave will break slowly forming a ‘crumbling’ wave. 

 Barrel wave                                                                                        Crumbling wave
Img source (right):

The physics of the wave

The waves make their way onto the shore in rows; sometimes the ones behind can catch up with the wave in front and add together creating a super wave. This is simply constructive interference.

If you picture the wave from the side you can see it as a series of orbital waves. This motion is a flow of energy from peak to the trough and back round again, making what is basically a large circle. When it comes into contact with the land this circular motion is forced upwards, essentially squishing it and disrupting the circular flow of the water, which causes the wave to break.

We know what creates the ideal wave and now we have the technology to actually make an artificial one. Professional surfer, Kelly Slater, rode an artificial wave in 2015. After years of research it was discovered that the best way to simulate barrel waves in the ocean was to use the wind (pneumatics). This was the wave that Kelly Slater surfed. 

By simulating ocean swells we can replicate an experience that is closely comparable to ocean surfing. Engineers have designed hundreds of wave pools for water parks, but the technology incorporated to make surfing waves today is a quantum leap in the evolution of surf pool technology. 

In the right conditions the water flowing back to the sea can form a rip current. This is the term for the water that’s moving from the shore back to the sea; the current can drag swimmers into the open water at a speed that’s too difficult to swim against. 

The weather can also change the intensity of the wave. For instance strong winds and pressure from a hurricane can create a series of waves that are formed in deep water, which intensify as they approach land.

The land at the bottom of the water can also massively affect the wave; Tsunamis for instance, are due to the land under the water shifting – different to tides which are created on the surface by wind and the magnetic force from the moon and sun. Tsunamis are caused by the energy beneath the surface; a volcanic eruption, submarine landslide or an earthquake can cause this huge surge of energy underwater that eventually makes its way onto the surface as it comes closer to the shore. 

Whilst the physics perspective is equally as stunning as the surfer's, encouraging a safer perspective on the waves, nothing jars the surfer’s instinct; that wave is theirs for the taking and admittedly, it’s infectious… Let’s go surfing. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Seabins - Clearing the waste of the ocean

Oceanic waste is a huge problem, and it’s growing by the year. Despite all the warnings, the rate of global plastic production continues to rise, and you only need to visit a popular beach to see the extent of the problem. Fish and seabirds alike are frequently found dead, with plastic in their digestive systems, and the ocean is blighted by floating islands of the stuff, centuries away from even beginning to decompose.

The primary approach to solving the problem is obvious, but daunting – significantly downsize plastic production and upscale recycling. The latter is already happening, but nowhere near enough to counteract the gargantuan scale of plastic production, and more to the point, the scope for reusing many types of consumer plastic is actually pretty narrow. 

Even if, by some miracle, we were able to stem the tide of plastic production and discarding to the point where it balances things out again, there would still be millions upon millions of metric tons of plastic still out on the ocean, and no, I’m not exaggerating. Beach clearing and trawling will only get you so far when there’s just so much of it, so one idea is to create a kind of device which can be placed in the water and just left to get on with the task at hand.

Enter the ‘Seabin’, an ingenious little solution invented by two Aussie surfers – Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski – and it’s currently in the final research phase. At a glance, it just looks like a bin with a yellow rim and a sleek chrome finish, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. They are fitted to pontoons, lowered until the rim is just slightly beneath the surface and then a suction engine whirs to life, drawing waste inside until the bag is full. 

The trash can then be sorted and recycled. Because the bin sits so close to the surface, fish aren’t in any danger of being mistakenly sucked in, as extensive tests have proven. The pump is solar powered, and has been tested in several countries already, with many marine authorities across the world saying that they also want to try it out. The team are looking at making them available in 17 countries from 2017 onwards.

If these wonderful little bins could be distributed in a more widespread manner, they could provide an effective solution to the issue, at least inland where they can easily be accessed and emptied on a regular basis. The open ocean is another issue entirely, but there’s no reason why the technology couldn’t be refitted to work on a larger scale, with fleets of bins cast out, and then collected at the end of the day by large ships.

Of course, active solutions can’t work all by themselves, and the introduction of technology like this has to be mirrored by the reductions in consumption I was talking about before. The Seabins can act as a barrier between the trash and getting out onto the open ocean, but even if they were on literally every beach, marina and pontoon in the world, trash would still find its way out to sea. We need companies to reduce their plastic footprint, or all the research and development in the world simply won’t be enough. The Olympics are evidence enough of that.