A non-profit environmental group is celebrating a “major milestone” in its effort to rid the world’s oceans of waste.
On Wednesday, two ships from The Ocean Cleanup returned ashore in Victoria, B.C., with proof that their experimental garbage collection system—an 800-meter device between them—is an effective tool.
“We have observed that the system interacted safely with marine life during off-shore expeditions,” said Henk Van Delen, the group’s ocean director.
“Most importantly, we have shown that we are able to harvest large amounts of plastic over and over again.”
The non-profit research took aim at a well-known collection of floating debris called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Located halfway between Hawaii and California, it is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world.
According to The Ocean Cleanup, previous samples have recorded more than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in patches, which weigh an estimated 80,000 tons.
Over 12 weeks and nine test extractions, two of the group’s ships collected a total of 28,659 kilograms of plastic from the water.
Lost and discarded fishing gear – also known as ghost gear – made up the bulk of the haul, the team said on Wednesday. But utensils also reel in toilet seats, toothbrushes, laundry baskets, shoes, and more.
“It will still be out there — 10 years from now, 50 years from now, maybe even 100 years from now,” said The Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat.
“This stuff is so stable and that’s definitely why we have to go clean it.”
The non-profit group, based in the Netherlands, hopes to eradicate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the world’s other four offshore plastic accumulation areas.
It hopes that its recent trails and proof of concept will help it fulfill its mission.
“The ultimate goal is to remove ninety percent of all floating plastic in five marine garbage patches by 2040,” said Jost Dubois, communications director in Victoria.
The returning ships were greeted in the B.C. capital on Wednesday by a fleet of local ships, including search and rescue vessels and oil spill response teams.