With so many of us surfing, going to the beach, and swimming in the ocean, we often ask what is being done in an effort to take care of it — specifically, what are we going to do about the huge amounts of plastic polluting it all?
In 2016, the United Nations published a report that no less than 800 marine species were being actively harmed by debris, declaring “plastic litter and microplastics are ubiquitous in the ocean.” Last year, Victor Vescovo journeyed 10,927 meters (35,853 feet) to the bottom of the Challenger Deep (the deepest known part of the ocean between Japan and Papua New Guinea), setting a world record. Even way down there, he found plastic trash. So we know plastic is everywhere in our ocean, from its depths to the surface, spreading from the shoreline out to the horizon. And all of it collects to form gyres, more casually known as garbage patches, with the largest being the size of Texas while floating between Hawaii and California.
It’s always a thrill to come across people working to solve this problem, like Susan Baer, Zane Allen, and their team in Southern California. Susan, with a background working at NASA, has self-funded a portion of Clear Blue Sea, a San Diego-based non-profit that has designed a vessel that can actively clean trash out of the ocean. After developing different autonomous prototypes, they’re now transforming a 16-foot catamaran into a bona fide ocean-bound, trash-cleaning vessel named FRED.