At the end of June the Ocean Voyages Institute’s marine plastic recovery vessel, S/V KWAI docked in Honolulu. The ship spent 48 days at sea recovering 103 tons (206,000 lbs.) of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, setting a record for the largest at sea clean-up in the Gyre to date.
The collected trash included mostly fishing nets and consumer plastics. According to Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of Ocean Voyages Institute, the team exceeded their goal of capturing 100 tons of plastics.
Capturing plastic from one of the most polluted areas of the ocean is no glamorous task. The crew spent long days scanning for areas of highest plastic concentration, grappling nets, and dragging loads of plastic aboard their recovery vessel. They use GPS trackers and drones to help them locate areas of dense debris.
In addition to collecting trash, ameliorating the health of our oceans, and preventing these plastics from breaking down into damaging and virtually uncollectible microplastics, the Ocean Voyages Institute is also researching more effective collection techniques and working with Honolulu-based Matson to ensure the collected trash is properly sorted and recycled.
Next year, the Institute has even more ambitious goals. They plan to scale up their plastic retrieval technologies and send out three boats to the Gyre. They also aim to pilot collection expeditions in other polluted areas of the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Gyre is located between Hawaii and California where currents have amassed a huge amount of waste in an area twice the size of Texas. We look forward to seeing the Institute continue to shatter this year’s record with future ocean-saving missions.