The Ocean Cleanup Project has been a massive undertaking and it’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride for those involved. System 001, nicknamed Wilson, launched in late 2018 and returned within a few months after its 2,000-foot array had broken and the whole thing was being towed back to port. From there it was another long but urgent road to revising, re-testing, and eventually re-launching a new and improved plan for cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Now, almost four years later with more refinement and revisions, two entirely new Systems, 45 extractions, and a lot of time in Pacific Ocean, the Ocean Cleanup Project has reached a major milestone: 100,000 kilograms of trash (22,0462 pounds) collected and removed from the ocean. The group has swept 3,000 square kilometers of ocean, which is comparable to the size of Luxembourg or Rhode Island. They report the weight of all that plastic is more than two and a half Boeing 737-800s combined…or a single space shuttle.
Any and all progress is positive news, and the 100,000 kg milestone is a major marker of success for a project that’s been in the works for the past decade — taking on one of the most urgent environmental tasks facing humanity. But to put things into perspective, the group referenced a 2018 study in which they mapped the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to get a feel for just how much ocean plastic they’d be attempting to collect. “If we repeat this 100,000kg haul 1,000 times,” they wrote, “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be gone.”
Talk about a drop in the ocean.