The Ocean Voyages Institute just removed over 100 tons of plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Hawaiian non-profit Ocean Voyages Institute just broke the world record for the largest open-ocean clean-up in history.
The crew removed over 100 tons (200,000 pounds) of plastic on a 48-day voyage using a specialized GPS satellite tracking system that leads them straight to large jackpots of junk.
Though the system hasn’t received as much publicity as the young Dutch inventor’s Ocean Cleanup, it has proven itself the most effective system to date.
It relies on volunteers on yachts and ships to tag fishing nets tangled full of garbage with GPS satellite trackers, whenever they come across them.
Then, when the Ocean Voyages Institute makes a voyage, they can zoom around to all the tagged patches, which typically lead to much larger chunks.
As the group’s founder Mary Crowley suspected, a visible patch of plastic is usually just the tip of the iceberg, pointing the garbage collectors to a much bigger chunk just beneath the surface.
The ocean’s currents tend to ‘sort’ the floating debris, swirling it altogether, so that one tagged fishing net can lead to more nets, and a high density of other debris, within a 15-mile radius.
Though they are toxic to marine life themselves, the nets act sort of like giant garbage bags.
Crowley calls them “ghost nets” and has been nicknamed the “Ghost-Net Buster.”
On her team’s first 25-day voyage, they collected nearly 50 tons of plastic waste. And two days after they dropped off their latest 100-ton load in Honolulu, they turned back around for a third voyage.
The institute is committed to 0% of the plastic waste ending up in the landfill and is sending the sorted debris to recycling companies to be turned into insulation, energy, etc.
Though it’s easier to collect plastic once it’s washed up on beaches, Crowley says it’s important to gather up as much as we can before it gets there:
“The oceans can’t wait for these nets and debris to break down into microplastics which impair the ocean’s ability to store carbon and toxify the fragile ocean food web.”
The number and size of future expeditions depends on donor support. You can donate by check or PayPal on their website.