An entire garbage truck worth of plastic makes its way into the ocean every minute of every day, killing countless marine life and polluting our waters. How can we tackle this issue? One Dutch company is using technology to collect and remove the plastic that is choking our ocean.
1. The Ocean Cleanup is just getting started.
Founded in just 2013, The Ocean Cleanup has grown from an ambitious dream to a $20 million system. Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO, came up with the idea after scuba diving in Greece and seeing more plastic bags than fish. He ended up dropping out of college at just 18 years old to start the nonprofit organization. Since then, The Ocean Cleanup has secured funding through individual donations, crowdfunding, and big-name investors, like Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.
2. First stop: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Ocean Cleanup's first project is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area comprised of 79,000 tons of discarded plastic waste, mainly microplastics and abandoned fishing gear. It embarked on its first test run this fall, and is currently en route to the Garbage Patch and aims to remove half of the plastic making up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in its first five years.
3. It works like a giant pool skimmer.
How does The Ocean Cleanup work? In simplest terms, it's basically a giant automated pool skimmer. It's made up of a 600 km floater with a 3 m skirt below used to corral the plastic (while letting marine animals swim below). It's designed to utilize the forces of nature (wind, waves, and currents) to help corral and collect the plastic.
4. Collected plastic will be given another life.
The organization isn't just removing the ocean plastic, it's helping further the circular economy by recycling it and selling it to companies, using the revenue to clean up other parts of the ocean.
5. But, there's still more to be done.
Although The Ocean Cleanup is great step in the right direction for protecting the health of our oceans, drastic changes need to happen here on land. The Plastic Bank's David Katz describes the problem with ocean plastic as an overflowing sink: Why would we start cleaning up the water without first shutting off the sink?
We need to curb our plastic use, there's no question about it. Do your part and skip the straw, bring the bag, keep the cup, and take the trash. And, ask companies to reduce their plastic use, recycle, and switch to ocean-friendly alternatives. It may feel like our individual actions are just a drop in the ocean, but collectively, we have the power to change the tide and #makewaves.
Help take plastic out of the ocean with our Make Waves Tee or Make Waves Hat. Each is made with six recycled bottles and a portion of proceeds will be donated to a plastic offset program, effectively removing 100 water bottles from the ocean.