What is two times the size of Texas, three times the size of Spain, consists of discarded or lost waste, and is floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? It’s none other than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP).
The GPGP was first discovered in 1997 by sailor Charles Moore. Then, Moore warned of the conditions: “as far as the eye can see, the sight of plastic.” Now, the patch weighs about 80,000 tonnes and is composed of approximately 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic—that’s 250 pieces of plastic for every human on Earth. It is located halfway between California and Hawaii and is the largest of the five plastic-collecting ocean gyres. By 2050, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation anticipates there will be more plastic than fish by mass in our oceans, and the GPGP is evidence of this growing problem. Recently, the patch has been the focus of one organization that is motivated to change these stats starting in the Fall of 2018.
The Ocean Cleanup organization was founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, a young Dutch entrepreneur whose vision is to significantly reduce the size of the GPGP and marine waste everywhere. He hopes that through technology, 50% of the debris in the patch can be recovered in only five years. Over the past five years, Ocean Cleanup has been designing its own technology that is sustainable, durable, and fit for the extensive job.
At first glance, the cleanup system seems relatively simple: 60 floating arms 600m in length, each one trailing a 3m-long screen beneath, all held in place by a floating anchor. The idea is that the arms and screen will collect the surface and sub-surface trash, which will be gathered by boats every few months and brought to land for recycling. The arms rely on the tide, wind, and waves for their movement, meaning their operation is emission-free. Additionally, thanks to the slow movement and open-ended screen, marine life can easily swim underneath the screen without getting entangled as they would in a net.
Upon reaching land, the collected plastic debris has been spoken for by a few major companies that wish to use the material for their consumer goods. These companies are some of the primary investors in the Ocean Cleanup’s bold initiatives, though the power of the people was also at play. Effectively, the campaign was partially funded thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign in which Ocean Cleanup raised over US$2million in only 100 days.
While Slat’s system is not the first in the realm of marine clean-up technology, it is the largest-scale venture to date. The first trial of the Ocean Cleanup operation began in June 2016, with a 100m-long prototype off the coast of the Netherlands. As the prototype proved successful, the system will be tackling the daunting GPGP on September 8, 2018.
With initiatives such as Slat’s and the growing interest of the general public, we are well on our way to creating a ripple of change in the plastic waste industry. Effectively, Slat’s system is addressing the end-product from the long line of issues with plastic waste. However, this initiative is an intriguing attempt to right our wrongs and is effectively sparking a conversation—a small but powerful step in bringing about further positive action.
P.S. If you want to read more Our Positive Planet stories about plastic recycling, see this article on how island countries are banning single-use plastic, then take a peek at this one on a lively new way to recycle plastic, and finally learn how to take home less plastic!
Did you know that there are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the Patch? Read on to find out how a 24-yr old innovator is planning to fix this.
Latest posts by Rachael Gradeen (see all)
- The Reefs are Alive with the Sound of Music - December 9, 2019
- Canada’s New Food Guide:It’s neat to eat less meat - September 13, 2019
- #TRASHTAG - March 18, 2019