The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Solution

Craig Murch

by on

Updated 1391d ago

Marine plastic pollution is one of the greatest issues facing our oceans. The world's biggest accumulation of this trash can be found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California and The Ocean Cleanup has developed the first feasible technology to remove 50 percent of it over 10 years.

The Ocean Cleanup was founded by Dutchman, Boyan Slat, who invented a method aimed at cleaning up this area in the Pacific. A task previously considered to be impossible. Boyan devised this method by asking the question, "Why move through the ocean, if the ocean can move through you?"

A 100km clean up array, deployed for 10 years, will passively remove up to half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Instead of going after the plastic using boats and nets, The Ocean Cleanup will deploy long floating barriers, using the natural movement of the ocean currents to passively concentrate the plastic itself. It works as practically all of the current will flow underneath the barriers preventing any by-catch of sea-life, whilst the lighter-than-water plastic objects will be collected in front of the floating barriers.

Concepts are indicating that a 100 km clean up array, deployed for 10 years, will passively remove up to half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But an important question remains: half of what? This is where the Mega Expedition comes in. This project aims to create a high resolution map of the plastic in the Pacific Ocean to provide an up to date estimation of its plastic pollution levels.

Trawling for plastic

Trawling for plastic

© 2019 - The Ocean Cleanup

The main goals of this project are to:

- Estimate the total amount of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
- Optimize the clean up technology
- Better determine the cost per kilogram of ocean plastic extracted

To do so the Mega Expedition plans to use up to 50 boats in parallel to cover the 3,500,000 km² patch from California to Hawaii and you can be a part of it.

Mega Expedition vessels will be involved in two types of activity when navigating within the Garbage Patch area:

- Visual surveys, where observers count and classify all debris they find at sea during 30-minutes observation periods, and log the data in a smart phone application
- Trawl surveys, where small surface nets are towed to collect plastic from the sea surface.

The route to be covered in the Mega Expedition

The route to be covered in the Mega Expedition

© 2019 - The Ocean Cleanup

Each vessel will attempt to follow a unique route when navigating within the Garbage Patch area and at least one person per vessel will be trained to participate in this project as “Citizen Scientists”. They will be responsible for collecting high-quality scientific data at sea. As well as citizen scientists, The Ocean Cleanup are of course looking for boat owners with vessels capable of making long distance cruises and capable skippers. They will also be looking for volunteer crew members and experienced captains and first mates to get involved on chartered yachts and sailing boats.

Why should I join?

- Your contribution will help rid the oceans of plastic
- You will get to visit the Great Pacific Garbage Patch yourself
- A significant part of the costs will be covered by The Ocean Cleanup
- Through its global coverage, your contribution will be internationally recognised
- The Ocean Cleanup takes care of all equipment, logistics and can arrange for a volunteer to do the measurements

The Mega Expedition plans to launch in August this year to commence the study which will gauge the true extent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Tsushima proposed barrier

Tsushima proposed barrier

© 2019 - The Ocean Cleanup

This system will span 2000 metres making it the longest floating structure ever. Currently The Ocean Cleanup are planning to deploy their first barrier next year off the coast of Tsushima, an island located in the waters between Japan and South-Korea. This system will span 2000 metres making it the longest floating structure ever and the plan is for it to be operational for two years. It will be an important milestone for the company who hope to continue increasing the scale of the barriers from there on and really get going on their mission to clean up our oceans.

The Ocean Cleanup are now actively looking for vessels and experienced sailors to make this a reality. If you would like to participate in the Mega Expedition or have any questions, get in touch at: megaexpedition@theoceancleanup.com and for more information visit their website HERE.


Craig Murch

MSW Content Editor