Back in the spring of this year, the American Sailing Association became involved in The Ocean Cleanup – an extremely ambitious project devoted to ridding the world’s oceans of harmful plastic pollution. The concept, devised by a 20-year-old Dutchman named Boyan Slat, involves capitalizing on the ocean’s currents to funnel large and small pieces of plastic into one place where they can then be collected and removed. If all goes according to plan, the plastic debris could then be sold on the recycling-market, which would inject a self sustaining financial component, thereby making the project something that could sustain itself in an ongoing way.
As the boats returned to San Francisco and the Mega Expedition came to an end Boyan Slat talked about their initial findings. After 30 boats spent the month of August traversing the Great Pacific Garbage patch they collected more samples than have been collected in the last 40 years. Their research casts a new light on the problem of plastic pollution and it’s severity. In the next 10 years The Ocean Cleanup will be working to try and remove up to half of the worlds harmful plastic pollution in the oceans.
“Just beneath the surface you find all these things you wouldn’t see otherwise…” ASA interviews Stella Diamant, The Mega Expedition Coordinator, via satellite phone from the middle of the Pacific Garbage Patch! Her first hand account of the plastic pollution in the oceans is quite revealing. Boyan Slat, the founder of The Ocean Cleanup, is quite content with results from The Mega Expedition – there is a lot of analysis ahead but so far the “largest research effort of it’s kind” is a success.
Stella Diamant works for The Ocean Cleanup. She is currently in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch sailing on a Gunboat 66 called Extreme H2O collecting plastic pollution samples as part of the Mega Expedition that she helped put together.
I was raised in Brussels, Belgium and attended an international school. I have always been environmentally conscious and even as a young person I would give speeches in my classes about climate change etc. I have always enjoyed wide open spaces and nature, and spent a good part of my childhood riding horses and climbing trees.
From the shores of Hawaii, and the shores of the mainland the Mega Expedition has begun… 24 sailboats are out in the middle of the Pacific collecting more plastic measurements in 3 weeks than have been collected in the past 40 years combined. Any day now we expect to hear from Stella Diamant, the Mega Expedition Coordinator, onboard Extreme H2O as they traverse the notorious Pacific Garbage Patch where so much of these plastics congregate. ASA will be conducting satellite interviews with The Ocean Cleanup team detailing what they are seeing and how their historic missing is progressing. Watch the video >>
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – July 15, 2015 – This coming August the American Sailing Association will be providing exclusive documentary-style content from the infamous Pacific Garbage Patch off the islands of Hawaii. ASA certified instructor Bob Solliday will be in regular satellite communication with the ASA shore team as he participates in the Mega Expedition, a research component of The Ocean Cleanup project. As part of the fleet of boats that will be surveying the ocean, Solliday and his crew will be collecting samples that will aid in the research about the amount of harmful plastics that are in our oceans.
ASA Boyan Slat Interview (part 2)
Young Boyan Slat made a splash when he announced a year and a half ago he had a plan to rid the oceans of plastic pollution. After a recently published feasibility study Slat feels confident he can make a giant difference with his organization The Ocean Cleanup in cleaning the oceans. Now he’s looking for sailors to pitch in and help by sailing their boats in the Mega Expedition – a voyage from Hawaii to the mainland that will help understand the amount of plastics that are out there. Participating sailors will be paid for their efforts and they will get the satisfaction of helping with this global problem. Here is the second part of ASA’s exclusive interview with this 20-year-old Dutch engineer (read the first part here).
ASA: Does sailing/sailors play a part in the Ocean Cleanup?
Slat: For sure. The majority of the expeditions we’re doing we use sailboats. We use a boat called the Sea Dragon, which is a 72-foot [steel] vessel that was designed for [the Global Challenge Race], a race around the South Pole and we just finished an expedition using the tall ship Wyldeswan – a Dutch vessel. In general I think it would be a fair observation, if you look at the whole team we have, out of the 12 people we have as staff, all of them are either a diver or a sailor. Sailors have also been a great base of support for the project so far.
ASA: Is it because of the low cost, low carbon footprint and range that you use sailboats?
Slat: There’s certainly a cost benefit. What we [try to] do with these expeditions is to piggyback on existing cruises. The ones we organize ourselves are sailboats – it’s a cost effective and sustainable way to travel. So yeah, we have positive experience with using sailing vessels. Continue reading
Sailors Called Upon to Help With Ocean Clean Up!
ASA caught up for an interview with Dutchman Boyan Slat, Founder of The Ocean Cleanup. Slat is an amazing young guy who, at 19, announced he had a solid plan to clean the world’s oceans of harmful plastic pollution faster and more efficiently than any have proposed before. In 2012, the skinny longhaired teenager spoke on a TED Talk stage of a plan that would harness the existing tendencies of the ocean and, in essence, coral the garbage for a manageable and cost-effective removal.
Fast-forward a year and half later and the ambitious environmentalist has begun the operation. Last year he published a feasibility report that confirmed his concept indeed had legs. From there, he has formed a team, raised funds and is now creating pilot phases that will actually test his theories in the real world.
Part of the process involves more accurately understanding just how much waste is out there and that’s where sailors come in. Slat is organizing what they’re calling the Mega Expedition. – up to 50 vessels will cross the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in parallel, in what will be the largest ocean research expedition in history. They have yet to sign up 50 boats, but he is confident that he will reach that goal before August.
ASA: What is the Mega Expedition? It’s not a clean up effort, but more of a research expedition, correct?
Slat: The Mega Expedition isn’t to clean up the oceans – it’s to determine how much plastic is in the ocean. Using computer models we determined we would be able to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10-years time using a single 100-kilometer system. The question however is how much, exactly, is half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Is it 100,000 tons, is it 1-million tons; is it 10-million tons? Nobody really knows. There have been many estimates about how much is out there, but they vary. This is quite important for us to know for primarily two reasons. One of them is economic. If there are ten times the amount of kilos [than we thought] in the ocean to extract, obviously the cost per kilo (to extract) goes down almost to a factor of ten considering that the plastic we extract we will reuse and recycle. That’s quite important for the business model. Although it doesn’t fully rely on it, it would make things easier.
The second reason is – to design the extraction equipment, to scale them correctly, we need to know if they have to process a ton of plastic or ten tons per hour…things like that. So that’s why we came up with this thing called the Mega Expedition. It’s a project taking place in August of this year. Using 50 sailboats, we will cross the great Pacific Garbage Patch in parallel. We’ll do more measurements in the course of three weeks than have been collected in the past 40-years combined. This should enable us to give an accurate estimate of the plastics in the ocean.
ASA: How is the Transpac [race from LA to Hawaii} involved in this?
Slat: Yes – many boats are participating – not all of them because some are being shipped back, but most of them will be. It will be the boats that are doing the delivery voyage back to Los Angeles. Since there is a lot of motoring being done anyway, we can use those vessels to go through the more southern latitudes. Our research area is 25-north – up to 40 north. It will allow us to cover three and a half million square-kilometers. The important thing is that the vessels leave around the same time, this will provide us with a high resolution snap shot of what’s in the ocean. What organizations like NOAA and some other non-profits do is they go out to the ocean take a few measurements, come back and repeat the same thing year after year. There are problems with that. For instance, the patch is moving around. If you take a measurement of one spot and come back a week later, you would get an entirely different reading. Therefore it’s important to get a lot of measurements in a very short time and the only way we felt that was possible was doing the Mega Expedition. Continue reading