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How The Ocean Cleanup Is Saving Our Oceans

April 20, 2023 by Robert Hasamski



Cleaning up ocean pollution has been a rising responsibility around the globe, as we see man-made debris floating around and washing up on nearly all beaches. Not only is it harmful to us and our health but to the oceans' ecosystems as well. Plastic pollution is a serious threat to our planet and is seriously endangering countless marine species. In recent years, we have had many nonprofit cleanup efforts kick off, but they're not being operated at the scale that we need them to yet. Countless microplastics continue to float around, and it's estimated that there is roughly 170 trillion pieces of plastic currently out there, translating to about 2.4 million metric tons. With that number, that would mean that there would be around 21,000 pieces of plastic per human. Remember, most plastic is non-biodegradable, so it is unable to be broken down by Earth's natural processes.


In the four oceans that we have, there are 5 active gyres which are like slow-moving whirlpools caused by surrounding currents. Namely, these are the North Atlantic Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Pacific Gyre, and the Indian Ocean Gyre. Each of these gyres has compiled a patch of plastic garbage in their centers, and they are continuously growing. The North Pacific Gyre currently holds the record for the largest garbage patch, namely the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it spans over 620,000 square miles, or 1.4 million square kilometers, making it twice the size of Texas.


Now, the amount of plastic in our oceans is projected to double every 6 years, but as I mentioned there are a couple of clean-up projects and efforts currently underway. The largest ocean cleanup is being taken on by nonprofit organization The Ocean Cleanup, which started up in 2013. They're mission is to clean up 90% of the ocean plastic pollution by 2040. It wasn't until 2018 that they launched the world's first ocean cleanup system, System 001, which spanned 600 meters (2,000 feet) wide and 3 meters (10 feet) deep.


They are beginning to grow quite large in scale and are mainly focusing on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch at this time. In 2021, they launched their second system, System 002, which spanned 800 meters (2,600 feet) wide. So far they have cleaned up over 200,000 kg of debris out of the GPGP, as they recently re-deployed System 002. They are currently transitioning to their new and improved System 03 which is going to be three times as large. They plan to begin it's first test drives in July of 2023, which is coming up shortly.



The team is projecting that they will be required to fully operate at least ten 03 systems to fully clean up the GPGP. This way, they will be able to take more plast out than plastic coming into circulation. The world's ocean pollution isn't going to be solved purely through this method. Plastics must be ultimately banned and we must switch over to biodegradable and environmentally safe materials. It's only a matter of time before all of this pollution causes permanent, irreversible damage to the ocean ecosystems.


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Sources


Birnbaum, Michael. “There Are 21,000 Pieces of Plastic in the Ocean for Each Person on Earth.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 9 Mar. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/03/08/ocean-plastics-pollution-study/.


Erika. “Transition to System 03 Begins • Updates • the Ocean Cleanup.” The Ocean Cleanup, 21 Sept. 2022, https://theoceancleanup.com/updates/transition-to-system-03-begins/.


Horton, Helena, and Damian Carrington. “More than 170TN Plastic Particles Afloat in Oceans, Say Scientists.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/08/plastic-particles-oceans-marine-pollution-production.


Neira, Juliana I. “The Ocean Cleanup Tests Its Massive System 002 to Great Success.” Designboom, 6 Dec. 2021, https://www.designboom.com/technology/the-ocean-cleanup-system-002-test-10-12-2021/.


“System 002 • Milestones • the Ocean Cleanup.” The Ocean Cleanup, 24 Nov. 2022, https://theoceancleanup.com/milestones/system-002/.

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