Ocean Cleanup Pre­pares for 2020

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The Ocean Cleanup suc­cess­fully con­cluded the Mega Ex­pe­di­tion with the ar­rival of a first group of ves­sels in­clud­ing the fleet’s 171-foot moth­er­ship in the port of San Fran­cisco. Us­ing a series of mea­sure­ment tech­niques, in­clud­ing trawls and aerial sur­veys, the fleet of close to 30 ves­sels sam­pled the con­cen­tra­tion of plas­tic dur­ing its month-long voy­age through the Great Pa­cific Garbage Patch. This is in prepa­ra­tion for the large-scale cleanup of the area, set to be­gin in 2020.

The Mega Ex­pe­di­tion’s pri­mary goal is to ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine how much plas­tic is float­ing in the Great Pa­cific Garbage Patch, by ex­e­cut­ing the largest ocean re­search ex­pe­di­tion in his­tory. This was also the first time large pieces of plas­tic, such as ghost nets and Ja­panese tsunami de­bris, have been quan­ti­fied.

“I’ve stud­ied plas­tic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as pol­luted as the Great Pa­cific Garbage Patch,” said Dr. Ju­lia Reisser, Lead Oceanog­ra­pher at The Ocean Cleanup. “With ev­ery trawl we com­pleted, thou­sands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plas­tic.”

Although the sam­ples col­lected dur­ing the ex­pe­di­tion still have to be an­a­lyzed, pre­lim­i­nary find­ings indi­cate a high­erthan-ex­pected vol­ume of large plas­tic ob­jects float­ing in the ocean.

This un­der­scores the ur­gency of The Ocean Cleanup’s mis­sion to clean it up, ac­cord­ing to CEO and founder Boyan Slat: “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.”

Boyan con­firmed that The Ocean Cleanup was able to con­duct the Mega Ex­pe­di­tion thanks to ma­jor fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions from en­tre­pre­neur-phi­lan­thropists, in­clud­ing Sales­force chair­man, CEO and founder Marc Be­nioff: "Pro­tect­ing the oceans should be a pri­or­ity for all of Earth's ci­ti­zens. The Ocean Cleanup is tak­ing an in­no­va­tive ap­proach to pre­serv­ing one of our most crit­i­cal re­sources and rais­ing vis­i­bil­ity of this global chal­lenge."

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