Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the ocean. On a private trip to Thailand in November 2016, Shara and I spent six weeks in tourist and non-tourist areas, including the islands of Ko Tao, Ko Samui and Ko Phangan. We were shocked that around those islands as well as on the mainland beaches, there was an incredible sea of waste, especially plastics, washed ashore. It seems like anecdotal evidence, but in the beach resort in Ko Samui where we stayed, there were two staff members cleaning the plastic waste on its private beach on a full time basis, starting on one end of the beach, ending on the other – and restarting again, day by day!
We were compelled to investigate why this was happening, what can be done about it and whether or not we could support an NPO that develops corresponding technology and actually does plastic cleanups around the world. After researching the internet and talking to people in Thailand, the US and Switzerland, we concluded that The Ocean Cleanup Foundation (www.theoceancleanup.com), based in the Netherlands, meets our criteria best.
FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC GARBAGE
Trash accumulates in five ocean garbage patches, the largest one being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California. Solving the problem requires a combination of closing the source, and cleaning up what has already accumulated. If left to circulate, the plastic will impact our ecosystem, health and economies. Fishes die, birds eat the plastic, etc. We purposely do not show any of the animal photos that we have been presented with, it is simply shocking to look at them.
The Ocean Cleanup Foundation develops advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. The floating systems are designed to capture small plastic down to 1 cm, up to massive discarded fishing nets (ghost nets) of tens of meters in size. Removing the plastic while most of it is still large prevents it from breaking down into dangerous micro plastics. Models show a full-scale cleanup system roll-out could clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the not too distant future. Combining the cleanup with source reduction on land paves the road towards a plastic free ocean in 2050.