The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Located in the North Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris and litter that has collected in the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world, made up of approximately 80,000 tonnes of plastic. The Patch covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area three times the size of France. The majority of the garbage within the patch is plastic and microplastics, as plastic does not degrade and instead, persists for decades and breaks into smaller pieces. 80% of plastic in the ocean is estimated to originate from land-based sources, with the remaining 20% coming from boats and other marine sources.

It is estimated that 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year from rivers, as debris from inland travels to the sea. Most of the debris comes from plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, and Styrofoam cups, which degrade into microplastics.

What is Currently Being Done:

The non-profit organization, The Ocean Cleanup, is leading the clean-up of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch through large-scale technologies. To clean an area of this massive size, The Ocean Cleanup has developed clean-up systems such as System 002 to capture floating plastics in the Patch. The technology creates artificial coastlines to concentrate the plastic. Comprised of a long, U-shaped barrier, the system guides the plastic into a retention zone at its far end. Through active propulsion, the system maintains a slow forward speed that is able to sweep plastic from large areas at a time.