Group leads massive plastic cleanup in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Posted at 1:52 PM, Oct 24, 2018

Can you imagine a pile of trash twice the size of Texas? That's what's floating in the Pacific Ocean right now.

A group started an ambitious project to clean it up.

Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup, has waited five years to see his idea put into action. That idea consists of a 2,000-foot long barrier, with a 10-foot skirt below that’ll help get plastic out of the ocean.

“2,000 feet is a pretty big clean up system, and just imagining that the future one will probably be you know maybe twice as large,” says Slat.

It's work starts at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch--an area between California and Hawaii--with a pile of trash three times the size of France.  

“You go out there, it's all blue. The thing is you're all miles away from any human activity and you start to see like objects that you can see in your kitchen,” says Laurent Lebreton, lead oceanographer. “So, it's just very striking like you wouldn't expect.”

The system will corral the plastic floating on the surface, so fish and other ocean life can swim underneath. Then, smaller boats take the plastic back to shore for recycling. The Ocean Cleanup says it can extract 50 percent of the plastic in the patch every five years.  

“That's a huge goal,” says Dr. Mikki McColb-Kobza, with Ocean First Institute. “If they are able to do that, I think that is a really big dent into the problem.”

Dr. McColb-Kobza says the system is meeting an unaddressed need.  

“There really haven't been a lot of other projects trying to go out and bring trash bag to try and figure out a way to bring it back,” he says.  

Still, some say the system creates a false sense of security, and more focus should be placed on keeping plastic out of the ocean to begin with.  

But Dr. McColb-Kobza says the project is a great way to get that conversation started.  

“Really the key is not only to clean up what is there, but it's to think about why you know do we live in this plastic throw a way society.”