Protecting the natural environment is at the heart of what we do. It is the driver behind our efforts to remove large amounts of plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. Hence, safeguarding sea life has always been the number one driver behind developing our technology.
Before launching System 001, we conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) through an independent agency, CSA Ocean Sciences, which did not identify any major risks of our method to the environment. Once we have confirmed the design of System 002, we will conduct an additional EIA before deployment.
In practice, for the entirety of Mission One, a team of scientists and experts conducted extensive monitoring and observation campaigns to understand any possible environmental impact of System 001 and System 001/B and to minimize any potential harm to marine life. Over 1045 hours of visual and acoustic monitoring were performed, and during this time no substantial interference with System 001 and the ocean ecosystem and/or marine life was observed; nor did we observe any entanglement or entrapment of marine animals or protected species.
During our monitoring and plastic extraction operations with System 001/B, some macro neuston (specifically, species of the genus Velella and Janthina) were observed inside the system and atop floating debris in the ocean (indicating neuston and plastic could have negatively interacted prior to reaching our system). Although this activity is still in line with the findings from our EIA, it is not enough data to have conclusive evidence of impact. Therefore, to have an established baseline before expanding our activity, our research team is collecting and continues to collect data of neuston organisms in the region, analysis is ongoing. Fortunately, our operations provide a unique platform to conduct research on this under-studied topic, helping us to understand our potential impact on the marine environment and providing greater insights on these organisms.
As we continue to learn more about the technology and the natural behaviors of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, we will maintain a vessel nearby with trained observers to see how the system interacts with the natural environment. While extracting plastic, people will always be present to check for marine life before, during, and after the plastic is lifted out of the water. Close monitoring throughout operations also plays into our iterative design approach, allowing us to adapt our technology and processes as we learn more in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.