About 8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean every year. It accumulates in 5 ocean garbage patches, the largest one of which is between Hawaii and California. Plastic pollution doesn’t only endanger over 100 marine species, but it also carries toxic pollutants into the food chain – a food chain that includes three billion people. The economic damage from plastic pollution is immense as well – according to UNEP (2014) it causes at least 13 billion U.S. dollars in damage every year to industries that include fishing, shipping and tourism. Plastic doesn’t go away by itself, and even gets more harmful over time, fragmenting into dangerous microplastics.
The ocean is a big place. So big that cleaning it was always deemed impossible. It would take thousands of years, tens of billions of dollars and vast amounts of energy to complete. One simple idea changed all this: why move through the ocean, if the ocean can move through you? The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive technology which allows the natural ocean currents to do the hard work for us. Computer simulations predict a single 100 km installation can remove half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years.