The Ocean Cleanup
is a foundation that develops technologies to extract plastic pollution from the oceans and prevent more plastic debris from entering the ocean waters. The foundation was founded by an incredibly inspiring and ambitious young man, Boyan Slat, in 2013. He dropped out of school to work on his design for a device that could collect the trillions of plastic floating in the ocean.
The results of extensive research & laboratory experiments and data analyses conducted by the scientists of The Ocean Cleanup Foundation over three years, which include two field expeditions, showed alarming statistics of the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch or GPGP – the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world, located between Hawaii and California. It is estimated that around 80 million kilograms of floating plastic debris of various size and shape, principally made of Polyethylene and Polypropylene, are accumulated in an area that is 3 times the size of continental France. Concentrations of microplastics, representing the majority of the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces inside the GPGP.
These figures portray the urgency of the situation and support the necessity to act rapidly by implementing substantial international measures in the coming decade to stop the increasing inflow of plastic waste into our ocean.
Ocean currents concentrate plastic in five areas in the world: the subtropical gyres, also known as the world’s "ocean garbage patches". Once in these patches, the plastic will not go away by itself. The challenge of cleaning up the gyres is the plastic pollution spreads across millions of square kilometers and travels in all directions. Covering this area using vessels and nets would take thousands of years and cost billions of dollars to complete.
The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive system, using the ocean currents as its driving force to catch and concentrate the plastic. By suspending a large sea anchor in a deep, slow moving water layer, we can slow down the system enough so that the plastic moves faster than the cleanup system. This will cause the plastic to accumulate against the cleanup system. Due to the screen’s U-shape, the plastic is funneled towards the center of the system. The highly concentrated debris is buffered until it is extracted and shipped to land.
It is estimated that with a full-scale deployment of the cleanup systems, the project will clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 5 years.
We can each do our part and get behind the movement to save our oceans by supporting removal initiatives, such as coastal and ocean cleanups, for the existing mess accumulating in the environment since the introduction of plastic in our societies.