"Using nature to solve the mess we are doing to this planet."* This is how the Ocean Cleanup, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to removing plastic pollution from the world's oceans, is attempting to reduce floating plastic by 90% by 2040.
Each year, millions of tons of plastic enter the oceans, primarily from rivers. Nearly half of the plastic sinks directly to the bottom of the ocean because of its low buoyancy, while the remainder most often ends up on our coastlines. This plastic can have severe consequences for marine wildlife, the coastal environment, and the fishing industry and can cause high cleanup costs for coastal communities.
To solve the problem, The Ocean Cleanup employs a dual strategy: intercepting in rivers to tackle the sources of ocean plastic pollution and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean and will not go away by itself.
In Oceans, The Ocean Cleanup project deploys its flagship technology to create artificial coastlines. Through active propulsion, a U-shaped floater with a skirt attached beneath forms a barrier that concentrates and traps plastic debris. The collected waste is periodically extracted and transported to land for proper disposal and recycling.
The Ocean Cleanup deployed its first full-scale cleanup in 2018 in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in October 2018. This plastic accumulation is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and triple the size of France and Thailand. To date, over 550,000 lbs of trash has been removed.
Since rivers are the arteries that carry plastic from land to sea, The Ocean Cleanup is also working with governments and partners on solutions. According to a 2021 study, 1,000 rivers worldwide represent almost 80% of ocean plastic emissions. The Ocean Cleanup's revolutionary interceptor technology solutions are working to capture trash at the source.
In addition to cleanup operations, The Ocean Cleanup actively focuses on research and development to understand the scope and impact of plastic pollution in our oceans. They also engage with governments, industry leaders, and the public to encourage policy changes and inspire individual action to reduce plastic waste.
Cleaning up the world's oceans is a global initiative requiring the support of governments and individuals all over the world. Spread the word about the critical work The Ocean Cleanup is doing and consider supporting their efforts!
*Source: Andre Borschberg, Co-founder of the Solar Impulse Project
**All photos provided by The Ocean Cleanup.