Environment

Great Pacific Garbage Patch more awash with waste than expected

Great Pacific Garbage Patch mo...
The Ocean Cleanup's Aerial Expedition is using a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft
The Ocean Cleanup's Aerial Expedition is using a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft
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The Ocean Cleanup's first Aerial Expedition flight is said to have revealed more debris than was expected
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The Ocean Cleanup's first Aerial Expedition flight is said to have revealed more debris than was expected
The Ocean Cleanup's Aerial Expedition is using a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft
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The Ocean Cleanup's Aerial Expedition is using a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft
The first Aerial Expedition flight comprised a number of low-speed and low-altitude passes back and forth along the northern boundary of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California
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The first Aerial Expedition flight comprised a number of low-speed and low-altitude passes back and forth along the northern boundary of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California
Surveying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by air makes it possible to cover the same area that was covered by the Ocean Cleanup's Mega Expedition every five minutes
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Surveying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by air makes it possible to cover the same area that was covered by the Ocean Cleanup's Mega Expedition every five minutes
The CEO and founder of the Ocean Cleanup is Dutch aerospace engineering student Boyan Slat
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The CEO and founder of the Ocean Cleanup is Dutch aerospace engineering student Boyan Slat
The plane used for the Ocean Cleanup's Aerial Expedition is kitted out with a variety of scanning equipment, including LiDAR and multispectral camera technology
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The plane used for the Ocean Cleanup's Aerial Expedition is kitted out with a variety of scanning equipment, including LiDAR and multispectral camera technology
Over the course of the first two-and-a-half hour Aerial Expedition flight, more than a thousand pieces of debris were counted in the ocean
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Over the course of the first two-and-a-half hour Aerial Expedition flight, more than a thousand pieces of debris were counted in the ocean
A team of experienced observers on board the first Aerial Expedition flight were tasked with counting the pieces of debris they spotted
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A team of experienced observers on board the first Aerial Expedition flight were tasked with counting the pieces of debris they spotted
The Aerial Expedition is aimed at developing an understanding of how much, what type and what size of debris there is in the ocean
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The Aerial Expedition is aimed at developing an understanding of how much, what type and what size of debris there is in the ocean
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The Ocean Cleanup is due to begin clearing up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2020. To get a better idea of what will be required, the Dutch foundation last year went for a close up look. It's now begun sizing up the task from the air and initial findings are that it's worse than originally thought.

"The Aerial Expedition - our final reconnaissance mission - brings us another step closer to the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch," says CEO and founder of the Ocean Cleanup Boyan Slat. "The initial findings of the expeditions again underline the urgency to tackle the growing accumulation of plastic in the world's oceans."

Last year's Mega Expedition had already identified pieces of plastic measuring up to 0.5 m (1.5 ft) in span, as well as larger masses of plastic and large discarded fishing nets, otherwise known as "ghost nets," in which sealife can become tangled. The first Aerial Expedition flight is said to have revealed more debris than was expected to be found in the heart of the accumulation zone.

Details of the flight, which was the Ocean Cleanup's first reconnaissance flight over the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, were revealed yesterday. It comprised a number of low-speed and low-altitude passes back and forth along the northern boundary of the Patch between Hawaii and California in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft.

A team of experienced observers on board the first Aerial Expedition flight were tasked with counting the pieces of debris they spotted
A team of experienced observers on board the first Aerial Expedition flight were tasked with counting the pieces of debris they spotted

Surveying in this way makes it possible to cover the same area that was was covered by the Mega Expedition every five minutes. The plane was kitted out with a variety of scanning equipment, including LiDAR and multispectral camera technology, and a number of observers on board were tasked with counting the pieces of debris they spotted. Over the course of two-and-a-half hours, more than a thousand items are said to have been counted.

The Aerial Expedition as a whole is aimed at developing an understanding of how much, what type and what size of debris there is, as well as giving an idea of how many "ghost nets" will have to be retrieved. This information is said to be crucial for the development and design of the eventual cleanup system, the logistics of transporting plastic back to land, the methods for recycling the plastic retrieved and and the costs of the cleanup.

The remaining Aerial Expedition flights are due to be completed this week, after which the data gathered will be combined with that from the Mega Expedition and published in a peer-reviewed scientific paper early next year.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup

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9 comments
KeithMeredith
The petrol barons are responsible for "Plastic" products. We toss the plastic into the recycle bins, and then many so called Recycles dump it in the ocean. The Recyclers and the Oil Barons should be paying for this cleanup, as they profit big time from this scandalous Wastage. In between are also many industries doing the same. CLEANUP YOUR MESS
Ken Brody
Nice plane. Disappointed not to see actual pictures of the garbage patch. Why?
CzechsterMarek
If we can spent 6 trillion dollars bombing countries we damn sure can clean up our oceans. Just do it!
Bob Flint
So in about 2.5 hours (9,000 seconds), they were able to only count about 1000 items, or about one every 9 seconds? With the height and speed of the aircraft, sort of like trying to count grains of sand while running along the beach. Yeah you will spot the big stuff, but not a real picture of the state of the oceans...
Deane
If the ocean has currents that have naturally concentrated this junk from around the world in one place I would expect that this area would tend to be highly radioactive with Fukishima water and debris. I hope the cleanup crew is aware of this possibility. Please check before handling!
christopher
8 photos of multimillion dollar aircraft, and one plastic bag. Yes, the waste is out of control, except it's not rubbish, it's taxpayer money and donations from clueless do-gooders unaware that this "problem" is both invisible and irrelevant, not to mention will "cure" itself if left alone anyhow.
GWA111
Next time you can't find a bin and decide to just drop the rubbish, or say nothing when a friend does it, you have just contributed to this mess. You are the reason it has accumulated in the first instance. Think globally, act locally - use garbage bins, if full, take your crap home and use your own bin. Smokers flicking cigarette buts need a good kick in the butt. Government only should police industry where waste is concerned - we are adults (apparently) therefore we should act responsibly for ourselves. The fact this mess exists is an absolute disgrace, all of us humans did this, we should all be ashamed and stop blaming everything else. Think of this article next time you need to throw something away.....
Neil Larkins
Here's an idea: instead of cleaning up this monster, just let it accumulate and grow. Eventually it will cover most if not all of the Pacific. Then we can build highways on top of it for a new way to travel from N. America to Japan, China, etc. We can have hotels and restaurants along the way next to the fuel stops that pull waste plastic out of the water to turn into gasoline. We can have entire floating cities existing on the plastic. The possibilities are endless. Neat, huh? (pffffft!)
Deres
They have so much money to spend that they cared to repaint an entire plane just for a few missions. It seems this "company" is more about publicity and fund catching that really plastic finding ... If you want to destroy the pacific garbage patch, money would be better spend resolving the issue at its source which are waste managing on land ...