The launch of The Ocean Cleanup
Today, September 8th 2018, might be a turning point for the oceans and the plastic pollution that has reached a critical status. For 5 years, more than 70 engineers, researchers and scientists have been working toward this day: the launch of the first Ocean Cleanup system. A 600 meter long floater that collects plastic trash from the oceans. This is huge news because at the moment it’s the only hope for ridding the oceans of plastic on a large scale.
If all goes well, it is estimated that the Ocean Cleanup system could collect up to 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in only 5 years. This is not a very long time considering the fact that it’s as big as Europe. In case you don’t know, there is so much plastic in the oceans already, that somewhat of a floating island of plastic was formed by the ocean’s currents. This area has been given the name of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Who’s idea was it?
The idea of the amazing Ocean Cleanup project comes from a smart young man called Boyan Slat. When I first saw his TED Talk back in 2012, he was only 18 years old. I immediately admired his passion for the environment and his courageous spirit to tackle one of the biggest environmental problems we are facing today.
Since 2012 the plastic pollution has gotten so much worse. I’m so thankful for people like Boyan, who not only talk about problems. They actually become active and work on solutions. He is the perfect example that it doesn’t matter how old you are or what your backround or education is. If you have passion and an idea, there is a way!
Criticism & Challenges
I’ve followed the project since its beginning and I also saw criticism. For example, critics said that a lot of plastic sinks to the ground where it can’t be collected by the Ocean Cleanup. Some suggest it would be more efficient to place the floating collectors at the coast of China and Indonesia. Others fear that this project might distract the public from the work of other environmental groups who work on reducing the amount of plastic that goes into the oceans in the first place. And there are many more.
Boyan Slat wrote a detailed response to the criticism that was brought up, which is worth a read. While not denying the challenges they are facing, he proofed many of the critics wrong. On the other hand he also underlines that people shouldn’t take his solution as the only solution to tackle the plastic problem.
I totally agree, there is so much work to be done. Not only in the oceans but also on land, the public mindset and, very importantly, in the fishing industry. Surprisingly the fishing industry is one of the biggest polluter of the oceans. Boyan and his team actually found in a study that most of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made of dumped fishing nets and fishing gear. You can read a more detailed article about it here.
What I think of the criticism
In my opinion it’s wrong to criticize the Ocean Cleanup in any way.
- No public money is being used. The Ocean Cleanup is solely funded by investors and donations. Thus, the risk of a fail doesn’t fall back on anyone but the participating, making this whole undertaking nothing but a noble effort to clean up the mess mankind created. No matter the outcome.
- Shouldn’t we applaud ANY help for the environment? Especially at this point, where we’ve reached catastrophic levels of pollution. The Ocean Cleanup has done an imense amout of research, which alone is highly valuable. So even if this launch turns out to partly fail, it will not be a lost cause.
- It’s the first time this planet and mankind is facing a plastic polluted ocean. How should we know how to fix the problem if we don’t start trying? Even if this means that there will be failings along the way. In that case we’ll learn from mistakes and improve. But guys, once this thing works, it will have a huge impact!
Let’s all work together
Meanwhile, there lies a lot of work ahead of us, all of us. The main change will have to come from each one of us. We as consumers have to actively reduce our waste. We have to use our voice to speak up to companies and cooperations, so that they rethink their packaging.
Knowing that a lot of plastic pollution comes from the fishing industry, we can choose to eat less or no fish. We have overfished the oceans more than enough anyway. There needs to be high taxes or fines on dumped fishing nets and fishing gear, so that it doesn’t land in the oceans anymore. We have to change a lot, but I have so much hope that today can be a turning point.
The Ocean Cleanup brings needed attention to the problems we face and I’m so thankful for all their research and work. Let’s all use this momentum to put our action into second gear. Change doesn’t only come from one place. We all have to work together.
As you might know, in 2016 I started my own business, selling reusable produce bags made of organic cotton. Like Boyan Slat, my motivation also came from the passion to stop the plastic madness. So why not join forces? Read more about how Greenderella supports The Ocean Cleanup here.