Nearly 20,000 pounds of trash removed from one of the largest collections of marine plastic in the world

Floating in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California is a huge accumulation of debris that has long been accumulating – from fishing nets to microplastics – that is known to be harmful to the marine environment. For years, researchers have said it might not be possible to remove the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but now a nonprofit is proving they are wrong.

In July, The Ocean Cleanup, which has developed a system for cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, adopted its first large-scale cleaning system called it System 002, or Jenny, to the Pacific. They ran a series of tests over a 12 week period, each of which consisted of putting the system out to sea to safely collect plastic from the ocean.

The organization completed the final test of the system last week and The Ocean Cleanup on Thursday tweeted it had accumulated 9,000 kilograms – more than 19,841 pounds – of rubble.

“Holy Mother of God”, Boyan Slat, the founder of Ocean Cleanup, tweeted after the organization regained its massive garbage collection on October 8th. “Everything worked !!! Massive load.”

Slat said when he first found out about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch 10 years ago, everyone told him there was no hope of ever cleaning it up.

“They were right then; there was no way to do it,” he said tweeted. “Proud (and relieved!) To say that there is now.”

According to Ocean Cleanup, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the largest marine litter spots in the world. In 2018, research It is estimated that there are at least 79,000 tons of plastic in an area of ​​1.6 million square kilometers. Microplastics – plastic materials smaller than 5 centimeters – make up about 8% of the mass, but 94% of the estimated 1.8 trillion debris floating in the area, researchers found.

Marine litter spots like the one in the Pacific are large areas of debris, they say National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The piles of water are formed by rotating currents called “gyren” that resemble “large eddies that attract objects”.

There are five eddies in the ocean – one in the Indian, two in the Atlantic, and two in the Pacific – and each eddy contains patches of trash of different sizes. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the most famous of these piles.

Jenny works with two boats that slowly lead a U-shaped barrier through the polluted area. According to the organization, the circulating currents in the garbage stain move the plastic around, and their system helps direct that plastic into the system’s retention zone. Once the system is full, workers dump the plastic on the ocean-going vessel. After collecting as much debris as possible during the excursion, the workers bring the plastic ashore for recycling, and The Ocean Cleanup reuses some of the collected materials to make products.

The system is supposed to catch even millimeter-sized microplastics.

The Ocean Cleanup also designed the system to be animal friendly. The boats haul it at about 1.5 mph, allowing marine life to swim in, out, and around with ease, and there are quick release systems, escape routes, cameras, and lights to help the animals escape the net . Crew members also monitor interactions with marine life.

Slat roughly believes that 10 upscaled systems clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and that they could remove 50% of it in the first 5 years.

Slat said many aspects need refining, but a fleet of systems from The Ocean Cleanup could clean it up. If properly deployed, the organization predicts that this may be possible Remove 90% of all floating marine plastic by 2040.

However, the organization’s mission has met with some criticism from other climate activists and experts.

In September, Miriam Goldstein, director of maritime policy at the Center for American Progress, said Reuters that The Ocean Cleanup “comes from a good place” but that priorities should be set to prevent plastic from entering the oceans.

“As soon as plastic gets into the open sea, it becomes very expensive and it takes a lot of fossil fuels to get it out,” said Goldstein.

While the organization was able to collect a huge amount of garbage, according to a. More than 24 trillion pounds of plastic is dumped into the oceans each year Study 2020 from the Pew Charitable Trusts. And without immediate and sustained action, the annual pollution flow could nearly triple by 2040 – if The Ocean Cleanup says most of the floating plastic could be removed – according to the study.

“Without significant changes, around 4 billion people worldwide are expected to be without organized waste collection services by 2040, which is a major contributor to the projected amount of plastic pollution in the oceans,” Pew said in a press release. “To close this gap, more than 500,000 people a day would have to be connected to collection services by 2040.”

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