The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit, has reached the milestone of removing more than 100 tons of plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP).
The organisation said on its website that plastic pollution in the world's oceans was one of the biggest environmental issues of our time and was impacting nearly 700 marine species.
Yearly economic costs due to marine plastic pollution are estimated to be between $6 billion (R100bn) to $19bn, according to a study conducted in collaboration with Deloitte.
The costs stem from the plastic’s impact on tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, and (governmental) clean-ups.
Plastic pollution does not only impact sea life, it also carries toxic pollutants into the food chain, one of which humans are a part.
The Ocean Cleanup announced that it had cleaned nearly 1/1 000 of the GPGP, which is more than the combined weight of two Boeing 737-800s.
According to the non-profit’s website, the organisation returned to the GPGP at the end of July 2021, to trial System 002, the latest iteration of its ocean clean-up system and its first large sale system.
After 12 weeks of successful trail runs, System 002 continued harvesting plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and, in tandem, Ocean Cleanup has started working on System 03, a larger, upgraded ocean system, which is expected to be the blueprint design for scaling up to a fleet of systems.
“Now our technology is validated, we are ready to move on to our new and expanded System 003, which is expected to capture plastic at a rate potentially 10 times higher than System 002, through a combination of increased size, improved efficiency and increased uptime,” it said.
The organisation found that, according to a 2018 study, the total amount of accumulated plastic was 79 000 000kg, or 100 000 000kg if the Outer GPGP was included.
However, by repeating a 100 000kg removal haul 1 000 times, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be gone.
They might also want to enlist the help of the ‘Great Bubble Barrier’, a Dutch invention that uses bubbles to trap plastic waste in rivers.
The Great Bubble Barrier removes waste by creating a wall of bubbles. It pumps air through a tube at the bottom of the waterway. This generates a screen of bubbles, blocking plastics and redirecting them to the surface.
The barrier is laid diagonally across the water and guides waste to the side into the catchment system.
The company said it was motivated to do something as “more and more plastic is floating in our oceans and seas”.
“It comes from rubbish that we throw away on the street, fishnets that are discarded, and from washing synthetic clothing and brushing our teeth.
“All these different types of plastic together form the plastic soup in the seas and oceans. With the little help of these oceanic warriors, we might just have clear waters after all.”