The Ocean Cleanup develops technologies to extract, prevent, and intercept plastic pollution. The Ocean Cleanup’s goal is to fuel the world’s fight against oceanic plastic pollution, by initiating the largest cleanup in history.
Instead of going after the plastic - which would take many thousands of years and billions of dollars to complete - The Ocean Cleanup uses long floating barriers to let the ocean currents concentrate the plastic itself.
After having worked with a team of 100 volunteering scientists and engineers, a 2014 study confirmed the passive system is indeed likely a feasible and cost-effective method to remove half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years’ time.
Katie Jewett has a rough job. After a brutal winter as a ski instructor in Colorado, Katie spends each summer working aboard tall ships in some of the world's most remote and beautiful places. Since joining her college's sailing team, Katie has enjoyed learning how the wind can take her all over the world. It must be in her blood. Growing up in Mill Valley, California, Katie worked her first job as a summer deckhand aboard the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry on San Francisco Bay. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University in Human Biology with a concentration in marine policy and science communications.
Katie's passion lies in storytelling through writing and film, and she hopes to increase ocean literacy by connecting even the most landlocked, mountainous populations with the beauty and importance of the ocean environment. On top of all that, Katie holds her Wilderness First Responder and a Merchant Mariner Credential (AB-Special).
Shanley treaded water next to me, grinning. “Take a look at the bluest blue you’ll ever see,” she said, handing me her snorkel mask. I slipped it over my head, and dropped my gaze below the water’s surface to witness the most mesmerizing shade of blue I had ever seen. Rays of sunshine filtered below in linear shafts and twinkled on and off from waves and clouds passing overhead, as if in greeting, before disappearing into the impenetrable depths. Blue went on and on. Swim call was soon over, but that moment will stay with me forever.
Microplastics basically come from two sources: 1. They are manufactured in their microscopic form for use in exfoliants or for industrial uses or 2. They are the result of larger plastics breaking apart into smaller and smaller particles.
We put about 8 million tons of plastic into the oceans every year. Plastics take hundreds of year to decompose but they don't take nearly as long to break apart. In the ocean, salt, waves and sunlight speed up the process. While large plastic pieces like bags and bottles may entangle or kill wildlife that consume them, microplastics are more insidious. Microplastics enter the food chain at a much lower level and are amplified higher in the food chain (think back to the bio-magnification models of DDT and Mercury in the food chain). In the end, this means we are consuming our own waste.
Hard to visualize? We think so. Here are a few ways to think about that much plastic. That is 8 million metric tons. Put 100 million people (roughly all the people in California, Texas, Florida and New York) on a scale and you'll have an idea. That's the same as you throwing out one plastic water bottle every second for 13,000 years. Enough for 5 plastic grocery bags of plastic for every foot of coastline on the planet.
It's overwhelming. That's a huge amount of plastic but only about 3% of the plastic waste we are producing each year. The other 267 million tons of plastic ends up in landfills.
Ocean gyres are enormous, circular water currents in the ocean. Gyres are created by the earth's rotation, wind patterns, and influence by large land masses like North America. While the currents on the edges of gyres moves water swifty and help drive the ocean's "conveyer belts," the massive centers of gyres contain calm, slow-moving water.
Bermuda and the area of study lie dead center in the North Atlantic Gyre. The North Atlantic Gyre is formed by four giant ocean currents: the Gulf Stream on the West, the North Atlantic Current on the North, the Canary Current on the East and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current on the South.