Nonprofit Tackles the Great Pacific Garbage Patch


The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch nonprofit, hopes to have most of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch removed in the next 20 years.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating patch of swirling plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean. It’s the largest hub of plastic debris in our oceans, approximately twice the size of Texas. While plastic floats in the ocean, it breaks down into microplastics and is eaten by wildlife. Slowly, these microplastics work their way up the food chain and into our bodies.

The Ocean Cleanup’s CEO, 23-year-old Boyan Slat, started working on a plan to remove plastic from the ocean as a teenager. After a scuba diving trip where he realized just how much plastic was in the ocean, he began working on a prototype for a high school science project. Now, with $40 million in funding, Slat plans to launch his first open ocean test from the shores of Alameda, Calif., in July 2018.

The strategy of the cleanup is to drop large, U-shaped floating tubes into the Pacific Ocean to act as trash funnels. The tubes will be 2,000 feet long and have attached nylon screens. The ocean currents will sweep plastic inside the funnels, and every two months, a garbage ship will net the plastic debris floating inside the “U” and haul it back to shore. These tubes are net-free and designed to retain plastic debris without harming wildlife.

The Ocean Cleanup estimates they will be able to collect as much as 50 percent of the plastic debris in five years, and 90 percent in 20 years.

Learn more about how to reduce plastic waste.