Fortunately, we will not have to skim all of the world’s ocean surface (145 million km2) to remove plastic, but “only” the five ocean garbage patches, the largest one of which (the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) measures 1.6 million km2. This is because the plastic floating outside of these ocean garbage patches either naturally removes itself from the ocean by beaching onto a coastline, or eventually also ends up in an ocean garbage patch (Read more in our “Quest to Finding the Missing Plastic” update). The cleanup is focused on those accumulation zones, where the plastic does not go away by itself.
The gyres are still large areas where the plastic is dispersed, which makes cleaning up plastic using conventional methods unfeasible. Therefore, we have developed a passive cleanup method. Because our cleanup systems “act like the plastic”, we see in our models that the cleanup systems do not travel a random path but pass through areas where the plastic concentration is higher than average.
Our computer models indicate that a full fleet of cleanup systems will result in a recovery of 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years.