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The Ocean Cleanup, an organization dedicated to removing plastics from the ocean, announced yesterday (July 25, 2022) that they have now officially removed more than 100,000 kilograms (220,000 pounds) of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). The GPGP is a region composed of trash in the Pacific ocean – one of several worldwide and twice as large as Texas – brought by the ocean currents.

The Ocean Cleanup has been working for a little less than a year, extracting garbage from the Pacific Ocean using what they call System 002. Since August 2021, they’ve swept an area the size of Luxembourg or Rhode Island, approximately 1,100 square miles or 3,000 square kilometers. The 108,526 kilograms of plastic they have removed so far is equal to the dry weight of a space shuttle.

The strategy of The Ocean Cleanup

A 2018 study showed the GPGP contains about 100,000,000 kilograms of accumulated trash. The Ocean Cleanup said that:

If we repeat this 100,000 kg haul 1,000 times – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be gone.

Granted, the first 1,000 kg took one year to remove, which would put the end of the GPGP 1,000 years in the future. However, the technology they used was still experimental. The Ocean Cleanup explained:

Now our technology is validated, we are ready to move on to our new and expanded System 003, which is expected to capture plastic at a rate potentially 10 times higher than System 002 through a combination of increased size, improved efficiency and increased uptime.

A comparison of the size of System 002 (inside) versus the larger System 003 (outside). Image via The Ocean Cleanup.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch or GPGP, sometimes called the Pacific trash vortex, is a giant floating mass of plastic garbage. It lies in the central North Pacific Ocean, where currents bring trash from the shores of Asia, North America and South America. The GPGP is rapidly growing as it accumulates more trash. It’s currently about double the size of Texas.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is more than twice the size of Texas. Image via The Ocean Cleanup.

The Ocean Cleanup at work

The Ocean Cleanup will be recycling the trash they extract. They’ve already turned some of the plastics into sunglasses, which they sold to help fund their project and are already out of stock.

They shared a tweet showing the progress they are making:


What you can do to help

What can you do? For starters, use less plastic! And wherever and whenever you can, recycle the plastic that you buy, use or otherwise consume. Because, unfortunately, these floating masses of plastic garbage don’t just exist in the GPGP. Here’s a look at a mass of plastic trash in the Caribbean.

In 2019, National Geographic said:

Half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years. Production increased exponentially, from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons by 2015. Production is expected to double by 2050.

We need to lower our demand for items made of plastic. The Earth-friendly mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” is as applicable as ever.

An example of one of the hauls extracted from the GPGP thanks to The Ocean Cleanup’s System 002. Image via The Ocean Cleanup.

Bottom line: The Ocean Cleanup has removed 100,000 kilograms of trash from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is 1/1000 of the entire patch. Their goal is to remove it all.

Posted July 26, 2022 in Earth

by Kelly Kizer Whitt