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Cleaning Up Our Oceans

Published on: 14th December, 2015 | Conservation
Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup
It is believed that one third of the debris in the ocean is concentrated in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by circular clockwise ocean currents known as the North Pacific Gyre.

 The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was originally discovered in the late 1990s the Pacific Ocean.  This is just one of 5 main areas of “garbage patch” found in our oceans.  The patch includes pelagic plastics ranging from microscopic in size to large chunks, chemical sludge and debris.  The patch cannot be seen by satellite imagery as it forms a low density soup both on and below the ocean surface.  One scientific study estimated around 5.1 kilograms of plastic per square kilometer of ocean area.

 
It is believed that one third of the debris in the ocean is concentrated in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by circular clockwise ocean currents known as the North Pacific Gyre. The debris is concentrated in an area between Hawaii and Los Angeles.  Regularly the eastern shores of Hawaii accumulate debris from the patch.
 
Researchers from The Ocean Cleanup have recently returned from a month long expedition to map and sample the patch.  The survey sampled plastics as small as sand grains to large fishing nets weighing upwards of 1 tonne.
The trip was part of a feasibility study to evaluate the quality of ocean plastics, as well possible methods to process it (including consideration of costs) and recommendations for future work.
 
This work has been funded by philanthropists and crowdsourcing initiatives.  The findings of the survey are expected to be published by mid-2016 with the start of the clean planned for 2020.
 
The original article ‘How the Oceans can Clean Themselves: A Feasibility Study” by The Ocean Cleanup is available here.
 

AUTHOR

Susan Shield

TDI Adv. Nitrox & Deco. Procedures. Chartered Professional Engineer