Cleaning up oil spills can be an arduous task. We have already featured novel oil-cleaning technologies like Robotic boat designed clean up massive oil spills. Now, a Quebec company has taken the first step to exclusively grow an indigenous crop of Milkweed to become a Super Oil-spill Sucker – “SOS” – and save our oceans.
Maybe you are not so familiar with the crop silk tree, commonly called milkweed. This plant has a fabulous unique quality because its fibres are naturally hydrophobic and have a cylindrical shape, which perform well in absorbing oil by repelling the water it’s been spilled in.
A Quebec company Encore3 has started to manufacture oil-spill clean-up kits that come with absorbent milkweed fibres stuffed in socks in varying sizes. The company claims that each kit can absorb 200 litres of spilled oil and can absorb 53 gallons of oil at a rate twice as fast as conventional oil clean-up products.
“[milkweed] sock in water and it will only absorb the oil. It’s very unique in nature to have fibres like that,” said the creator. If this magical milkweed fibre can naturally grow in larger scale, scientists can save time researching on bio-mimicking absorbent products to deal with oil spillages.
To ensure a stable supply of these fibres, the Canadian company contracts local farmers to grow this indigenous crop on an intensive scale, using climate-friendly and ecological methods. Surprisingly, to substantially increase the cultivated area of milkweed plants in Canada means providing habitats for the declining black and orange Monarch butterflies, who lay eggs on the plants exclusively, and their caterpillar are feeding on the leaves of milkweed.
The kits have been contracted and adopted by Parks Canada for use in 50 national parks in high spill risks area like car parks and other fueling areas.
If this Canadian case turns out to be a feasible and economical way to save our oceans from oil spillages, can we introduce the kits to other regions?