Environmentalists managed to pull 40 tons of plastic from a huge collection of marine debris which has come to be known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Volunteers with the California-based nonprofit Ocean Voyages Institute returned last month from a 25-day expedition in which they ventured out on a 140-foot (43 metre) cargo sailboat fitted with a crane.
They travelled from Hawaii to the North Pacific Gyre in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, where ocean currents converge. The gyre has been nicknamed the Garbage Patch as it is believed to contain 1.8 trillion plastic items, covering an expanse of ocean three times the size of France, World Economic Forum reports.
According to TIME, a year before setting out to collect the plastic the California-based group gave buoyant GPS trackers to sailors travelling from California to Hawaii, which they could then attach to abandoned fishing nets they encountered during their voyage so they could be tracked.
The cargo ship then set out at the end of May to collect the abandoned fishing nets, most of which were plastic, in an attempt to get rid of at least some of the waste which entangles whales, turtles and fish and damages coral reefs.
Tangled among the nets were plastic chairs, bottles and other trash. One sad photo showed the skeleton of a swordfish which had become caught up in the nets.
After returning to Honolulu, volunteers separated two tons of plastic trash from the haul of fishing nets and donated it to local artists, who plan to transform it into art work to educate people about ocean plastic pollution.
Mary Crowley, who founded Ocean Voyages Institute, said the rest of the refuse from the Pacific Garbage Patch was turned over to a zero emissions energy plant which will incinerate it and turn it into energy.
Speaking of their huge expedition, she said:
Our success should herald the way for us to do larger clean ups and to inspire clean ups all throughout the Pacific Ocean and throughout the world. It’s not something that we need to wait to do.
The effort cost $300,000 and the group plans to deploy dozens more GPS trackers and embark on a three-month trash collection expedition next year.
In May, Sir David Attenborough warned our waste is killing people every 30 seconds, describing the world’s plastic pollution as an ‘unfolding catastrophe’ in a damning report.
Nick Mallos, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Trash Free Seas Program at Ocean Conservancy, said it is estimated between 600,000 and 800,000 metric tonnes of fishing gear is abandoned or lost during storms each year in the oceans.
The Ocean Voyages Institute is one of dozens of groups around the world trying to tackle the problem.
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