Articles, Blog

Boyan Slat – The New Picture of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2018)

So in order to solve a problem, you really first have to understand the problem. In the early days of the technology development in 2014-2015, it became rapidly apparent that we simply didn’t know enough about the problem yet to be able to develop an optimal solution. Then we wondered, well, why is that so, why don’t we know enough? Researchers have been doing great work since the 1970’s actually in terms of mapping plastic in this Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But the thing was that the data was very scattered, and we had this hunch that there was this measurement bias towards the smaller pieces because of the way we have been sampling in the past. To solve that, we thought well, let’s cover a larger area. What if we just crossed this Great Pacific Garbage Patch with 50 boats at the same time, all taking measurements in parallel, and that way we do cover a very large area and get a good sample of what is out there. By that point in time, the exact number of vessels that we had secured for this expedition… was zero. Definitely it required a lot of cold calling. Just us driving from marina to marina, in Hawaii and California, spreading flyers around. So, the question to you is… are you willing to join this expedition? Was quite a lot of work, but eventually I think it paid off. We chartered a former NOAA vessel, as a mothership for the fleet, and, eventually, we got to 30 vessels. There is a lot of plastic in the oceans. It’s scary, guys. Over. So, what have we got? I think we got found this time even more. We got a lot of plastic, bigger plastic pieces. By September 2015, we completed the Mega Expedition. We got all our samples in, it was a survey effort of unprecedented size. But, while doing so, we collected a few ghost nets, which are these very large sort of balls of nets and ropes, which are very dangerous to marine life, to vessels as well. The number of nets we collected was too low to do good science with, to do good statistics with, but it was high enough for us to have a suspicion that this would be actually a very major component of the problem. But, we just crossed the ocean with 30 boats at the same time and then we thought, well, to get a good analysis of these nets, we need to cover an even larger area. So how on Earth are we going to do that? How would you normally cross a large area? Well, you would jump on an airplane. So then we thought, well what if we actually got ourselves an airplane to do this survey? And that actually led to the first aerial reconnaissance mission of an ocean garbage patch ever. We crossed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with a C-130 Hercules aircraft twice. We fitted this airplane with the most advanced aerial sensors in the world, which included short wave infrared sensors, as well as LiDar sensors. And this is really the same technology that self-driving cars use, where we are actually able to get a sort of a 3D point cloud of the debris, through we are also able to estimate whether it was just debris or a net at the surface, or whether it actually went down. So, then we had the count, we had the volume, and through that we could actually estimate, based on the nets that we got with the Mega Expedition, how heavy those nets would be. And now it actually turns out that the nets that we spotted would actually comprise about half of the mass of plastic out there in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So then, we had these shipping containers full with ocean plastic arriving here in the Netherlands. We have these 1.2 million pieces of plastic, and somehow we need to count them and we need to turn this physical matter into data, into numbers. Within no time, we found ourselves a group of interns. They started this monumental effort of actually separating the plastic from the plankton with a pair of tweezers, one by one, day in day out, and I just have this immense amount of respect for the work that they did. And then it was really time to put the paper together. And really the challenge was to take this huge amount of data, and then present it in a concise matter, compact enough so that we can actually submit it to a journal. And our research found that there is about 80 million kilos of plastic floating around, which constitutes to 1.8 trillion pieces of ocean plastic inside the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Interestingly, I think these results will again change the face of what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch actually looks like. Back in the 90’s, when this big story about the garbage patch started appearing, through the media it was blown up to this island of plastic where you could actually walk on. As the years passed and more research came in, that kind of flipped completely the other way to it just being these small confetti-sized pieces of plastic, which you could hardly see with the naked eye. And now what we see is that actually, the truth is somewhere in between. Well sure it’s not an island you can walk on, but it’s definitely not just confetti-sized pieces of plastic either. Even though by count most of these pieces of plastic are small, if you look at it from a mass perspective, actually most of the debris is large and we see that about 92% of the plastic isn’t microplastic but is large plastic. These results also show why it’s so important that we are cleaning up this garbage patch in the near future. Because when you think about it, those 8% of plastic that are already microplastics, They used to be large objects as well, but because of UV lights, it breaks down into these smaller and smaller pieces becoming harder to clean up and magnifying the impact of the problem. So these results now allow us to further improve our cleanup technology, and it also gives us a baseline to which we can compare the success of the cleanup. So we know the point where we start, and then while we’re cleaning up, in the next few years, we can continue to measure how much plastic is out there and then compare it to the baseline and see how far we’ve come.


  1. ODDBALL SOK Author

    I give you another FREE CLUE to tackle the plastic problem:
    The MOST CONCENTRATED locations are at estuaria from the BIG ASIAN RIVERS and PORTS in SE Asia and China.
    SO, the SMARTEST location to set up a CATCHING CONTRAPTION is EXACTLY at those EXIT POURING points!!!!
    With certain luck you HAVE the flow of the river and tides to deliver the ENERGY to catch the debris in your contraption.
    Problem is the safe passage of ships.

  2. BIG DOG Author

    эта угроза реальна и чем раньше с ней начнем бороться тем больше шансов изменить мир сейчас до наступления пагубных последствий отравления окружающей среды!Вода это жизнь!

  3. testostestom Author

    Great project but what about the sources of Garbage? Why not to solve the problem of Garbage paths instead of searching a needle in the sea? I mean to clean the asian and african rivers of garbage and plants that polluting earth? Srr 4 my bad english.

  4. Clayton Thomas Author

    I wish I could help them more, but if anyone would like to help the Ocean Cleanup I have a gofundme page to help fund their company, this is the link if you're interested in donating-

  5. Malak Hassan Author

    I really appreciate his devotion to this cause,but I have a question,what happens to all the garbage he collects?do they go to landfills?are they burnt?I shall never know

  6. Paul Majerus Author

    0ne third of all plastics produced annually 75 million tonnes are textile fibres, already of a very small size. A proportion of these find their ways into the oceans, through washing and discard from the worlds inland waterways. What is being done to stop the textile industry to reduce their reliance on fibres that are not biodegradable?

  7. Tina McLaughlin Author

    You are a true gift against the Mongols that own, make, and sell plastic. We all came from the sea of life. Let life live and stop adding to the ocean people!

  8. Anna Bulczak Author

    Very nice idea, and good work!. I am looking forward the results. I am wondering how you will collect all the plastics from those floating cleaning barriers, and after what time? It would be useful to have a GPS and AIS system installed for the tracking and navigation safety of ships. Did you do tested your devices at rough sea conditions?

  9. Kyle Samuelson Author

    Hoax. Why dont you blatantly admit there is no such thing as a garbage patch in the ocean, other than fishing nets. You know plastics break down into small pieces, and do not clump together to form any kind of patch. You know that for a fact, but you still call it a great garbage patch. Shameful. Every critical thinker knows this is a hoax. Make a video saying there is no garbage patch, and focus on filtering out all the micro particles of plastic in the ocean. You are not helping spreading lies about a garbage patch hoax. Talk about what youre going to do about all those dangerous plastic particles, stop talking about fake garbage patches.

  10. TheYoyozo Author

    I really appreciate many aspects of this video and the thoughtfulness of the researchers. While the numbers are staggering and clean up should be undertaken no context for the numbers is provided.

  11. Hell Wach Author

    I love this kind of pioneering work! Thank you so much for this inventive genius. Wish all the best for the whole OceanCleanup-Team. Keep up the fantastic work! :o)

  12. jim rogers Author

    According to Wikipedia the Great Pacfic Garbage Patch can't be seen from aerial photos (confirmed by this video) nor by boaters cruising thru it – nor by people actually swimming in it. I can't think of anything that more resembles the story of the Emperor's Clothes.

  13. changa bodega Author

    I attempted to contact this cat with some solutions and no one got back to me and my ideas would expedite. The end result wtf. Of anyone wants to make a difference with me then let's do it contact me shoot me a message and we can try

  14. Dingo Capo Author

    so here is an idea get the name and brand of every product rapper or plastic trash and approach these companies do donate some of their profits from these products that are made or wrapped in plastic.

  15. Randy Smith Author

    Well Cudos for fortitude in a good direction. It is necessary to clean up the macro trash for sure. My concern is the micro plastics. Right now there is already more plastic in the oceans then the is Plankton as hard as that is to understand. Diatoms need calcium to build their shells as well as large animals farther up the food chain. They are dying off because the plastic is interfering with the lattice structure of the shell, so they die, are deformed, and other animals up the food chain that feed on the also now die, are deformed and function less efficiently. So the food that feeds the oceans is dwindling. We can clean up the big stuff but not sure how we tackle the micro unseen stuff. The oceans may still continue die off long after we see no trash.

  16. intsccents Author

    I have commented about what a great idea this is but maybe just maybe we should tackle getting the large nets out of the ocean first since they now can be mapped to where they are and since as the vlog says they are 50% off all the plastics in the pacific garbage that's floating we start by removing this first 50% off all plastics then let his floating boom idea filter the rest… I think a two prong approach one that can now be deployed starts us on the path that we can quickly reduce this mess.. we should charge the cleanup with a vessel charge to all commercial cargo and fishing vessels that really are impacted and have contributed to this problem ! this is a world wide issue but lets get started as there is no perfect idea and waiting for one as the problem gets worse is not an option…

  17. Guns Cars and Digits Author

    Keep your plastic in a cool, dark place. It never shatters. It resists acids. It lasts a pretty long time. It's easy to cut. Maybe if you start accumulating plastic, you'll learn to stop doing things that force you to accumulate it in the first place. For me, it was water bottles and plastic bags. Clamshell packages were an occurrence. I took the clamshell packages and put then 2" under ground around my water hydrants to keep the weeds from growing. I'll see if I can find this comment in 4 years and report the condition of the plastic. Thin plastic that gets glued to paper is a pain to recycle because the paper is mixed in. At least bottles can be kept in my shop, and I can use them to assort screws, bolts, pencils, mystery liquids, pre-measured containers of solids or liquids. They stay dry for the most part. Cut the tops off and use them as funnels. Plastic bags, I take in for recycling once my giant cardboard box fills up. They're not as easy to re-use. I'm still working on that one….

  18. Andrew Daley Author

    Boyan, you need to receive the highest award for your great work. Not sure there are awards for helping save the world, but you deserve it big time.

  19. ian murray Author

    Good idea but what about all the countries that put garbage into rivers that flow into oceans would,NT make more sense to start at the percentage which is rivers. all rivers pollute into the oceans. Today, the Ganges is considered to be the fifth-most polluted river in the world. This ends yes where. Many rivers pollute. The Citarum is arguably one of the most polluted rivers in the world.China is the fastest growing economy and this is attributed to its rapid industrialization. The Yellow River has yellow sediment ‘loess’ which attributes to its yellow colour. This river is home to industrial waste from various industries including chemical factories rendering the water too toxic even for agriculture. More specifically, the coal mining industry releases a lot of waste back to the river after using water from the same river to run its operations.This river is home to millions of Philippine residents who use the water for drinking and also for irrigation. The pollution of the river is mostly from wastes from tanneries, dumping and gold refineries. The dumping of non-recyclable materials such as plastic bottles are present on the surface of water. In addition to this, the water has rocks bearing heavy metals, which pose a health hazard to the residents.The Mississippi is one of the longest rivers in the world. As such, it serves millions of US residents. The river is brown in color owing to the constant release of waste into the river. The marine life in the river has reduced alarmingly due to various oil spillages in the past. More waste comes from industries and farmers who use harmful chemicals and release them into the river. The river has a high level of nitrogen-based fertilizer run-off, which instead of leaching in the soil, upsets the food chain and reduce the oxygen levels in the waters thus death of aquatic life. The major pollutants are benzene, mercury and arsenic.This is the second most polluted river in India after the Ganges. It boasts it source as the Himalayas but the river gets more polluted as it moves. The major issue is the poor management of raw sewage by the Indian government. There are few functional sewage plants in the city of New Delhi, which dampens the glory of the big capital. The yellow river, the Yangtze River is also found in China. The rapid industrialization in the country has had its toll on the river which receives a lot of the release. As a result, there has been a growth in algae through eutrophication. There are many negative effects of this, including the death of aquatic life since there is minimal source of oxygen in the water. We are doomed.

    Nevertheless, people are still dependent on the river for drinking water.

  20. Farmerson Author

    What I would like to know, is what is being done to stop ships, countries, and cities from dumping garbage in the oceans? Why is it OK for them to use the oceans as a dump? The plastic in the oceans is not just in the Pacific. It is covering the beaches in the Caribbean.

  21. Sonam Jordanma Author

    I have a question, what about after cleaning up finishes i mean people will throw garbage anyway again. Unless Government ban plastics or find some alternatives it’s impossible to make the ocean remain clean always.

  22. Burp McGurp Author

    Great thing they are undertaking, but as usual, I have concerns over the amount of donated money going towards the salaries of those people in charge. This isn't just donated time. Over half of the people that the Ocean Cleanup employs make above $112K per year. Is that responsibility? I'm not saying I know the right answer, but it certainly raises eyebrows.

  23. cruzan mongoose Author

    Better to educate the worlds slobs to stop throwing garbage into the worlds waterways. if you try to clean the plastic from the oceans it will just keep coming back..

  24. Mary Alvarado Author

    I love this, but after reading a couple of dozen comments, no one says anything about the amount of plastics being produced, when does that stop? I heard that Trump was going to allow plastic industries to STEP UP production! Why? Because, I think, he wants to destroy the environment and piss people off.
    SO, the biggest offense is the production of more and more plastic. Clean up is brilliant, noble and necessary, but nipping it where it starts, banning plastics and finding other alternative ways to make safe for the environment products seems where it’s at. I use Bee Wrap instead of Saran Wrap, and there are smart new things, as well as old fashion crafting products out of natural, long lasting materials, but not on a grand, industrial scale. Technology is amazing! Yes… but the affects, long term are being neglected as far as studying what happens. And let’s face it, humans are the most wasteful, unconscious beings on this lovely planet! Absolutely disgusting, and our system supports wasting because Big Corps love to make profits… throw it away and get a new one… must stop. Is there any hope for us to learn to take care of our world in a kind, gentle, healthy way?

  25. Szabó Gergő-Bence Author

    God bless Boyan and his team! Let's fight back the pollution in the oceans! And let's all be the source of a solution and not the pollution!

  26. Roger Klekacz Author

    I think it is vital to this project to put a stop to the dumping of trash in the oceans. That creates another problem which is how to recycle trash at the collection sites. An important goal will be to inform the public about recycling and to make it more possible for cities to require recycling by consumers. In my city, Leavenworth, Kansas, we don't recycle. The drop-off location has limited hours which makes it difficult for consumers to drop off recyclable materials. Many people just can't do this and there is little encouragement for the rest.

  27. Agin Bayu Author

    We need this in Indonesia… soon!!
    Our island and oceans are beyond beautiful, but not with our people…. they love throwing garbage to the sea. Someday i want to work with you guys to help fixing my country and eventually the whole world 😭😭😭

  28. Hjordis Torfa Author

    Thank you from my heart Boyan Slat 💖 You and youre hole crew members are a world heroes.. Great educational information.. I'm horrified by the measure of how big this thing really is 😨 Wishing you all the best of the best.. One thing I promise you is that I will do my verry best to share this on.. everywhere 🌍.. and recommend others to do so as well 👍💕👍✌😊💕💖 Bravo 💕👏💕👏💕👏💕

  29. ximena diaz guevara Author

    You are a wonderful human being who works for this world and you do it very well, I hope you continue and do not falter in your hard work for this planet. I wish you the best luck of this world, God bless you and help you Boyan Slat and your team.

  30. billnheidi Author

    I can say MY sweet boyfriend has contributed to your amazing idea!! I just spoke to a friend who spoke about Dubai they too are in need of your project!! To continued research to riding our oceans of OUR neglect to support our living souls in ocean and sea!!

  31. Dragonheart Lilienfeld Author

    Hallo Boyan Salat und Team OceanCleanUp….
    Ich danke Euch für euren Einsatz das Meer vom Plastik zu befreien.
    Lasst euch nicht verunsichern durch Neider und Missgönner.
    Ihr handelt und tut was für unsere Mutter Erde.
    Danke Euch…
    Wie interessiert einige für euer Projekt sind und wie wenige Euch liken ,erschrickt mich.
    Diese scheinen den Ernst der Lage nicht zu erkennen.
    Ich bin Euer Fan..💟

  32. M. M. Author

    I'm afraid people use and throw plastics faster then you try cleaning it up. To solve this problem people should quit plastic. Use glass and cardboard. This might just give people false hope that it's all not so bad. Educate and do what you can. 🙂 Thanks for trying.

  33. Teapot Inc Author

    It's absolutely tragic that no-one has bothered to even bother about this problem. And the former generations call us "self absorbed and entitled" when they began this without so much as a thought to the consequences. And they still don't care because it doesn't affect them who are now knocking at death's door.

  34. Phillip Barnes Author

    I obviously think any effort is better than no effort, but I can’t help but wonder if they are going about this the right way. They are really only targeting the plastic in the top layer of the ocean (maybe 50-100ft?) but the average depth of the pacific is 12000 feet. I’m also very curious about who is funding this project. Ocean clean up is a global waste management problem. Unless you can some how negotiate countries to pay for this service if cleaning up the ocean, the project’s funding will run dry. The most effective way to clean the ocean is to stop the flow of garbage to the ocean in the first place. Microbes (either bioengineered or natural) may be able to help degrade plastic, using it as a food source. Plastic is just ancient plankton, trees, biomass that is now in a different composition. Nature will figure out how to digest it. The first order of business should be stopping the flow to begin with.

  35. Doug Scholl Author

    There IS a LOT of plastic garbage in the ocean, but this myth about islands is horseshit. Every photo that has been shown has been disproved. What is out there is more a soup of plastic particles, on average the size of a human fingernail from UV deterioration (as shown floating in a jar in the video), but it can cause a larger problem than the islands actually would. If the islands were there it'd be a simple matter. They'd engineer ships for removal. but these plastic particles are about one every 2 square meters on average. So the only way to clean it up is to literally net drag the ocean with hundreds of thousands of ships for years. Even then, with current,s we would never get it all. Also, the fallout due to the ships wreaking havoc on oceanic wildlife, and the amount of fuel burnt (which we don't have, to be able to supply it) could actually make things worse. We have put ourselves into a problem that there is legitimately no good way out of currently.

  36. peace and love Author

    It is sooo expensive to do this, as incredible this is, their are other much cheaper ways, like stopping billions if tons of plastic and human and domestic and industrial waste from going into the sea, lakes, landfill and rivers for less.


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