The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is hundreds of miles long and has been described as a “swirling mass of human debris. The “Patch” contains several hundred times more plastic than marine life or any living organism for that matter.
The vessel Ocean Cleanup, accompanied by a flotilla of volunteers in sailboats, sampled the mostly plastic trash near the Hawaiian Islands and found pieces of the non-biodegradable refuse ranging from basketball sized chunks down to near microscopic all brought into a convergence by circular, clockwise ocean currents, known to mass garbage, including “deadly “ghost nets” floating monofilament that has killed millions of entangled fish and marine mammals.
Working at the site for over a month, the group collected samples including a net that weighted in at 2,000 pounds. According to oceanographer, Julia Reisser, they also “mapped the area and using aerial balloons and trawling equipment sampled the refuse.”
"We did three types of surveys in 80 locations, and now we are working on completing an up-to-date estimate of the size of the patch, making a chart of hot spots and publishing our findings by mid-2016," Reisser elaborated.
"Hundreds of times more plastics were in these areas than there were organisms."
The sampling mission was conceived by Boyan Slat, the founder of Ocean Cleanup. Funded in part by CEO Marc Benioff from Salesforce, crowd funding and other donations raised more than 2.2 million dollars for the trip, according to Ocean Cleanup.
In 2016, there are plans to deploy a model “oceanic debris collection system” in Japanese waters that could cover an area up to 60 miles.
The proposed system will use floating stationary booms tethered to the ocean floor and linked together to skim gather plastic debris floating on the ocean’s surface in convergence areas.
The “system” invented by a Dutchman, known only as Slat, was patterned after another of his inventions - floating booms used to anchor deep sea oil rigs. “We will only deploy the collectors in international waters and outside shipping lanes,” the inventor said.
While many conservationists and marine biologists have praised the project, critics have said the method is impractical and too costly. “It is very difficult to work a large system in an open ocean environment, particularly when equipment is deployed in areas where major currents are present.
Scientists are discovering increasing amounts of human generated garbage in the world’s oceans and the majority of it is found in places where currents converge. Items as large as steel shipping containers have been found. It is plastics, however, that concern biologists and oceanographers the most since the materials are non-biodegradable.
“Plastic can last hundreds of years in the ocean and when they are in the form of nets and fishing lines, marine life becomes entangled and die,” said Renee Otweiller a volunteer on one of the clean-up missions. “The smaller plastic is swallowed by marine life and chocks them to death,” she added.
While this garbage collects unseen by most human eyes to those who venture to where it is collecting it is just one more giant pile of evidence showing humankind’s impact on the planet.
“Even the most remote areas of the world are now home to our garbage,” said Otweiller.