Quantcast

Boyan Slat's 'Mega Expedition' Shows 'Our Oceans Are Riddled With Plastic'

A few years ago, when then-17-year-old Boyan Slat claimed he could rid the world's oceans of plastic, many thought it was just a nice idea. But flash forward four years and what appeared to be merely youthful idealism has turned into concrete action. Yesterday, Slat's nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup returned from a 30-day voyage through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The team was on a reconnaissance mission to determine just how much plastic is floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, "a swirling mass of human-linked debris spanning hundreds of miles of open sea where plastic outnumbers organisms by factors in the hundreds."  

The researchers collected samples ranging from microscopic to as large as a 2,000-pound fishing net in what the group claims is "the largest ocean research expedition in history." Using a series of measurement techniques, including trawls and aerial surveys, the fleet of close to 30 vessels sampled the concentration of plastic—all in preparation for the largest clean up of the area set to begin in 2020.

The team's findings confirm the well-documented fact that our oceans are riddled with plastic.

“I’ve studied plastic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as polluted as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” Dr. Julia Reisser, lead oceanographer at The Ocean Cleanup, said.

“With every trawl we completed, thousands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic.” In so-called "hot spots" of the garbage patch, "there were hundreds of times more plastics ... than there were organisms," Reisser told Reuters.

Read page 1

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

“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," says Slat. "It really is a ticking time bomb.”

The next phase begins in 2016 when the team will test out a one-mile barrier of its ocean-cleaning system near Japan. The system will contain "floating stationary booms tethered to the ocean floor and linked in a V shape intended to skim and concentrate surface plastics floating on top of ocean currents," according to ReutersUltimately, Slat's goal is to develop a 60-mile barrier in the middle of the Pacific.

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. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Some have criticized the effort as being too costly and ineffective, but one of the project's financial backers, Salesforce chairman, CEO and founder Marc Benioff had this to say: "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."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Boyan Slat to Deploy ‘Longest Floating Structure in World History’ to Clean Ocean Plastic

Bill McKibben: Picturing the End of Fossil Fuels

The World’s Oceans Are in Peril

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less