Remember that young Dutch guy with the ocean plastic cleanup machine idea that we love to talk about? Boyan Slat, that’s the guy, well, there’s an important update on the progress of ‘Ocean Cleanup’…
A month-long plastic sampling expedition, carried out by about 30 vessels, has just completed its mission. The team has used many techniques to measure the parts of its journey through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which they hope to have cleared by 2020. A mixture of aerial surveys, trawls and observations, they were able to gather large amounts of data about how polluted the area is.
“With every trawl we completed, thousands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic… I’ve studied plastic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as polluted as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch” said the lead oceanographer, Dr Julia Reisser from The Ocean Cleanup.
This study is in effect, the greatest ocean research expedition in history, and will continue to be so over the next few decades. Never before has the amount of plastic in the Garbage Patch been quantified, and there is also research into the relation that the Japanese Tsunami debris has. Of course we wrote in the past (See here) about the effect that boating equipment has had in this part of the ocean.
It’s little surprise to discover that there is more plastic than expected, as it’s likely that nobody wanted to face the real truth of the matter, and yet also no data was really available. On this occasion, the guesstimates were well under! The numerical findings are yet to be announced.
Boyan Slat added: “The vast majority of the plastic in the garbage patch is currently locked up in large pieces of debris, but UV light is breaking it down into much more dangerous microplastics, vastly increasing the amount of microplastics over the next few decades if we don’t clean it up. It really is a ticking time bomb.”