Non-profit group Ocean Voyages Institute (OVI) removed 170 tons from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch this summer – the largest open ocean clean-up in history.
First things first: what is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
A collection of about 87,000 metric tons of plastic debris that covers about 1.6 million square km in the North Pacific Gyre. The size has been increasing about 10-fold each decade since 1945. Now totalled at about 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, it could cover about 40% of the sea. The negative impact of this on the environment cannot be overstated: toxic to the ocean and food chain, damaging to marine vehicles, and threatening to local wildlife. An estimated 380,000 marine animals are killed every year by either ingesting or being caught in the debris. The question we are left asking is not why OVI decided to take on this issue, but why they are relatively alone in such a mission.
How did OVI tackle the problem?
Open Ocean Recovery Mission:
- Developed innovate new technologies with engineer Andy Sybrandy: GPS satellite trackers to find ghost nets, drones, lookouts secured to masts
- Used these to remove ghost nets and plastic debris from the Great Pacific Garden Patch (GPGP)
2009: started researching potential for the collection and recycling of the debris of the GPGP
June 2020: spent 48 days removing 103 tons of plastic from Hawaii to the Pacific Gyre
August 2020: spent 35 days removing a further 67 tons
- Over the summer of 2020: total of 170 tons collected (4x year before and the largest open ocean clean up in history)
- Total of 5000 nautical miles logged
The debris that OVI have collected will be recycled and repurposed with the help of volunteer groups. OVI have also partnered with ByFusion to turn 20 tons of the collected debris and waste into construction grade building materials. By this zero waste process, approx. 4,000 building blocks will be available in the market later this year. The remaining debris will be converted into reusable fuel, shoes, apparel and more.
And that’s not all. Next year, OVI are aiming to have three vessels operating in the GPGP for three months, and to expand into other parts of the world – showing their commitment to their goal of removing 1 million pounds of plastic from the ocean. They also plan to share their technology and best practices globally, to inspire others to join their efforts worldwide
The Bottom Line:
Ocean Voyages Institute embody the immense potential of a singular organisation that embraces the challenge of making positive change. With plastic set to outnumber fish by 2040, this kind of inspired proactivity is not only admirable, but essential, in the quest to save our oceans. Whether it be the 170 tons of plastic collected by OVI this summer, or the 11kgs we collect with the sale of every Ocean Bottle, let’s take a moment to celebrate these progressive steps as the first of many.
Bibliography: Botsman and Rogers, Ocean Voyages Institute, The Ocean Cleanup