Banishing The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Ocean Cleanup’s System 002 (Jenny) was successful in helping reduce the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So far, ,the endeavor has collected about 28,659 kilograms of rubbish, including micro-plastics, since October 20th. This marked the end of Jenny’s three-month test campaign and was proof of the technology’s functionality. Jenny is an artificial, U-shaped barrier guided by two boats. It leads ocean plastic into a retention zone. Then, when the system is full of plastic, it is emptied, and the plastic is sent for recycling. As the first large-scale cleanup system that the non-profit organisation has created, its purpose is to aid in the mission to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040. System 002’s promising results in reducing the garbage patch are a beacon of hope.

Nevertheless, this good news has met criticism from some experts. A notable critic is Miriam Goldstein, the director of ocean policy at the Centre for American Progress, who informed Reuters that although The Ocean Cleanup is “coming from a good place…Once plastic has gotten into open ocean, it becomes costly and fossil-fuel intensive to get it back out again.” Goldstein strongly recommends considering a preventative strategy that targets the pathways to the ocean, such as rivers, creeks, and stormwater. Fortunately, The Ocean Cleanup has been addressing this issue by working on the Interceptor to clean 1,000 rivers in five years.

It is uplifting to see that The Ocean Cleanup’s efforts are being rewarded with success. The care put into the project is apparent in many aspects, such as Jenny being animal-friendly. This means that marine animals can swim safely in or around Jenny using escape routes, cameras and lights for guidance. The Ocean Cleanup has also pledged to offset all carbon dioxide emissions by striving to attain carbon neutrality. The Ocean Cleanup website states that their systems are “100% powered by natural forces of nature,” such as ocean currents and solar energy. However, the vessels still need fuel. Thankfully, this drawback is recognized and is slowly being addressed. Although there is a long road ahead, The Ocean Cleanup seems to be unrelenting in its efforts to inspire lasting change in the face of what appeared to be an impossible undertaking.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at least 14 million tons of plastic are collected in the ocean annually. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a prominent result of this blunder. It is two vortices of garbage in the Pacific Ocean, one near Japan and the other near California-Mexico. According to The Ocean Cleanup, it is considerably large. At about 1.6 million square kilometers in size, the garbage patch is about twice the size of Texas. However, this patch is not entirely visible on the ocean’s surface, since about 70% of garbage sinks to the ocean floor. Hence, the patch is likely to be larger than anticipated. Ocean plastic is dire for many reasons. It kills marine life and releases greenhouse gas emissions when exposed to heat and sunlight. According to The WWF, as global warming occurs, the plastic disintegrates into ethylene and methane, increasing the rate of climate change. Removing and reducing this plastic is crucial to resisting climate change.

Thankfully, The Ocean Cleanup has no intention of ceasing to build technology to fulfill its goal of removing 90% of ocean plastic by 2040. Currently, System 003’s design is being scaled up; it is “expected to be the blueprint designing for scaling to a fleet of systems” and will be a larger and enhanced version of Jenny. Thus far, Jenny’s victory in removing ocean plastic has cemented these goals. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to be aware of our actions and be as informed as possible. If you are interested in learning more about The Ocean Cleanup, please head to https://theoceancleanup.com/.

Juliana Subhan
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