I’ve decided to use my training and trek across the Cairngorms to raise money for The Ocean Cleanup.
The non-profit has demonstrated that it has a REALLY compelling solution to remove an enormous chunk of the plastic pollution in the ocean, and I’m really passionate about supporting them.
Please consider donating to this great cause through my JustGiving page. It will certainly help motivate me through the training over the next 3 months!
The Ocean Cleanup does not “just” aim to remove 90% of all floating plastic pollution (which is clearly an amazing win for the planet)… they have also designed and are manufacturing a fleet of River Interceptors which will catch plastic pollution as it flows out of the most polluted rivers in the world.
The Ocean Cleanup describe it best on their website, but effectively, 80% of the plastic pollution in the oceans flows from the mouths of approximately 1% of the world’s rivers… Stem the flow from these rivers and you can have an astronomical impact on the entire problem.
What I really love about this charity is their multi-pronged approach… Cleaning up the legacy plastic pollution, including the plastic accumulated in Great Ocean gyres, simply isn’t going to be enough (hard to say that because even clearing plastic from one of the five gyres, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch would be a monumental achievement)… The ONLY way to change the game is to turn off the tap and stop the Garbage Patches being replenished.
For more information on gyres and the Great Ocean garbage patches, there is a really interesting podcast and transcript from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The River Interceptors will only ever be a sticking plaster over a mortal wound, and The Ocean Cleanup have acknowledged that too (another thing I really appreciate)… they are working with local governments and organisations to enable them to tackle the root cause of the pollution – often down to a total lack of waste collection services upstream. Through the recycling of waste collected by the Interceptors, there is a boost to the economy and infrastructure in these areas and there is hope for change. So the Interceptors are just buying us time while those 1000 pollution hotspots can be addressed at the source.
The Interceptors have been designed for mass production and are energy neutral so it is not a burden on local infrastructure to operate one.
Three Interceptors are currently deployed (Indonesia, Malaysia and Dominican Republic) and Ocean Cleanup aims to deploy 1000 Interceptors within 5 years of beginning the scale-up. Currently the team is establishing a network of manufacturers around the world to facilitate the scale-up. It’s an exciting time to get involved in the project. Check out their page on the river scale-up for more info including some great graphics.
Removing the plastic pollution from the Ocean Garbage Patches is made even more urgent because the plastic is degrading over time; being broken and ground up into smaller pieces. And that’s a far worse issue because the amount of plastic in the ocean doesn’t reduce, it just spreads out more finely and ends up contaminating EVERYTHING, plus becoming impossible to collect. There are lots of articles on microplastics in fish, here is one from The Conversation from February 21
Ocean Cleanup have created ingenious systems which slowly corral plastic into a collection area which has a conveyor belt to lift plastic out of the ocean and deposit it into a retention zone. When the retention zone is full, it gets hauled onto a ship and then transported back to shore to be recycled.
The team estimate that they will need 10 full sized systems to address the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They are also clearly taking a scientific and data-driven approach, with numerous publications and a clear plan to use data and models to ensure an efficient clean-up operation. The current version of the Ocean Cleanup systems are crewed, but future versions are expected to be uncrewed and autonomous, using data gathered in-situ and other sources to steer systems to higher concentrations of plastic. Check out their page on the Ocean scale-up for more info.
The latest news from The Ocean Cleanup is that System 002, the latest design iteration, has been launched as a successful technology demonstrator.
Mark Rober, an incredible YouTuber, has co-developed the #TeamSeas fundraising campaign, which will donate half of the proceeds to Ocean Cleanup with the other half going to the Ocean Conservancy. TeamSeas aims to raise I’ve opted to directly support Ocean Cleanup but #TeamSeas is definitely worth engaging with. Honestly, I’d be delighted if readers donated to any cause they are passionate about!
Thanks for reading, here’s the link to the donation site again. Please feel free to spread the word – it really is a great project to support!
Other initiatives and ways to support
The Ocean Cleanup created a limited number of sunglasses from the plastic collected during their pilot phase in 2019. The glasses cost €199 and the proceeds from each pair with fund a huge area of plastic collection (24 American football pitches, I tried to find an equivalent in square metres but no luck yet).
World Cleanup Day – third Saturday of September (17 September 2022) opportunity to raise awareness of the need to develop sustainable methods of managing waste in those top 1000 most polluted rivers.
The Ocean Cleanup’s Scientific Publications