Between 8 to 14 million tonnes of plastic makes their way into our ocean worldwide every year (that is more than a garbage truck’s worth per minute) and it is now estimated that 88% of the sea’s surface is polluted by plastic waste: more than 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from plastic pollution every year, 1 in 3 fish caught for human consumption contains plastic, and by 2020 the number of plastics in the sea will be higher than the number of fish.
The ocean is said to be Earth’s life support, with 97% of the world’s water held by the ocean. We rely on it to regulate our climate, absorb CO2 and it is the number one source for protein for over a billion people. However, at this rate, the damage we are doing to marine life and our ecosystem is becoming irreparable. Plastics are ending up everywhere from the deepest ocean trenches to the most remote Arctic ice sheets. And while the crisis looks most acute in places with limited or minimal waste collection and recycling systems, the truth is we all have a role to play, no matter where we are in the world. Our actions over the 10 years will determine the state of the ocean for the next 10,000 years to come. Plastic pollution is not only an environmental problem, but also one for human health and wellbeing.
In a bid to solve the massive plastic pollution in the ocean, Rotterdam-based The Ocean Cleanup has partnered with #TeamSeas, a fundraising campaign, created by Mark Rober and MrBeast, fellow YouTube content creators and Campaign Director Matt Fitzgerald. Rober has over 20M Youtube subscribers, whereas MrBeast (aka Jimmy Donaldson) has over 73M. The #TeamSeas fundraising campaign kicked off on October 29th, in which the famous youtubers and a group of volunteers are seen cleaning up a polluted beach. As a follow-up to MrBeast’s tree-planting campaign #TeamTrees, which planted more than 20 million trees, #TeamSeas is a campaign with a goal of raising $30 million. The money will be used to recover 30 million pounds of trash from beaches, oceans, and rivers by the end of 2021, according to official #TeamSeas website. If #TeamSeas reaches the fundraising goal of $30M, it will remove a lot of trash roughly equivalent to 85 football fields covered a foot deep. According to the website, the donations made would be split between the two organisations –Ocean Conservancy, a D.C.-based organization that works to protect the world’s oceans, and The Ocean Cleanup. Every dollar #TeamSeas raises toward the $30M will go to independently verified pounds of trash that have been removed from beaches, rivers, or the ocean. All recyclable trash collected by the organizations will be recycled. In other cases, where it is contaminated and impossible to reprocess, trash will go to a proper disposal site in accordance with local regulations and capacity. But the fact that so much trash cannot be recycled is “why we need to reduce the amount of plastic we use and waste we generate, period,” the #TeamSeas website reads. The #TeamSeas organisers have enlisted thousands of content creators in 145 countries to promote the effort.
According to the timeline mapped out by #TeamSeas, the project begins with a super waste-eating robot of sorts. This robot is solar-powered and require no electric source. It was built by Boyan Slat and has been appropriately named Interceptor. With Mark Rober being a former NASA engineer and MrBeast bringing light to the issue as only a vlogger could, the project began as a competition on a beach in the Dominican Republic. While MrBeast led a team who corralled any waste they could find, Rober manned the Interceptor. The Interceptor work as the robot is anchored to a point on the shore, the trash that’s floating down a river or around the shoreline is caught via a barrier that extends from the base of the robot. This barrier allows maritime animals to freely swim through and under but catches anything that’s floating at the very top of the water before loading it onto a conveyor belt. Anything caught on the conveyor belt is then loaded into one of four floating trash containers before being recycled or disposed of properly.
While most people associate ocean plastic with things like plastic straws, bags, and other plastic cutleries, the truth is, discarded fishing gear is the biggest part of the problem. Abandoning used fishing gear is a common practice in the industry, and this gear makes up about 46 percent of the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. For that reason, this project will focus a lot of its energy into “ghost gear.” Not only is fishing gear wastes are some of the most fatal ocean trashes, as it is plotted to kill marine animals, but it is also extremely difficult to recover. For that reason, #TeamSeas is working with Ocean Conservancy’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative to target ghost gear “graveyards” in the ocean.
The Ocean Conservancy and the Ocean Cleanup are both non-profit organizations who actively working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Since founded in 1972, Ocean Conservancy has gone by a few different names over the years. The organization has accomplished many incredible things for whales and wildlife, local communities and most importantly, ocean. One of its first initiatives was the Whale Protection Fund, which focused on saving whales and protesting commercial whaling by Russia and Japan. It raised support from the community to invest in scientific research, launched petitions and ran ads in papers to raise awareness about the whaling industry. All that commitment paid off when the International Whaling Commission finally banned commercial whaling in 1982. Energetically similar, the Ocean Cleanup develops and scales technologies to extract, prevent, and intercept plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. Founded by a Dutch inventor, Boyan Slat at the age of 18, the Ocean Cleanup consists of a team of 120 engineers, researchers, scientists, computational modelers, and supporting roles, working daily to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. The ocean garbage patches are massive. To effectively clean an area of such magnitude, a calculated and energy-efficient solution is required. With a relative speed difference maintained between the cleanup system and the plastic, the team concentrates the plastic for extraction. After 273 scale model tests, six at-sea prototypes, a comprehensive mapping of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) with 30 vessels and an airplane, plus several technology iterations, the Ocean Cleanup launched its first assembled system on September 8, 2018. System 001 marked a significant step for the organization as it was the world’s first cleanup system to be trialled in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The #TeamSeas campaign has gained monumental support and recognition and is now on its way to clearing 30 million pounds of trash. As of publication, #TeamSeas has raised about 16,597,282 pounds of trash removed from the ocean. To get involved, you can donate as small as $1 to clean up 1 pound of trash. #TeamSeas accepts crypto donations as well.