Scientists and volunteers track trash in ocean In this Aug. 2, 2015, photo provided by The Ocean Cleanup shows, Mega Expedition crew members, Mario Merkus, left, and Serena Cunsolo on mother ship R/V Ocean Starr with the results of trawling with one 6 meter-wide net for one hour in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (The Ocean Cleanup via AP)
Scientists and volunteers track trash in ocean
Lexile

Far away from California's coast, where the Pacific Ocean currents swirl, the blue of the sea was replaced by fishing nets, buckets, buoys, laundry baskets and unidentifiable pieces of plastic that floated past the Ocean Starr. It is a ship carrying a team of scientists and volunteers gathering data on plastic garbage.
 
"We were surrounded by an endless layer of garbage," sad Serena Cunsolo, an Italian marine biologist who works for The Ocean Cleanup. "It was devastating to see."
 
Cunsolo, 28, was one of a team of 15 researchers and volunteers aboard the Ocean Starr. The ship set out this summer from San Francisco to study the plastic waste as part of the "Mega Expedition." The trip was a major step in the organization's effort to eventually clean up what's known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
 
The 171-foot mother ship carried massive white bags filled with plastic garbage. The vessel returned to San Francisco along with two sailing boats with volunteers who helped collect the garbage samples.
 
Most of the trash they found, including a 1-ton fishing net, is medium to large-sized pieces, as opposed to confetti-like plastic shards that can easily enter the food chain after being eaten by small fish and birds. They are extremely difficult to clean up, said Boyan Slat. He founded The Ocean Cleanup and has developed a technology that he says can start removing the garbage by 2020.
 
"It was a good illustration of why it is such an urgent thing to clean up. Because if we don't clean it up soon, then we'll give the big plastic time to break into smaller and smaller pieces," Slat said.
 
Volunteer crews on 30 boats have been measuring the size and mapping the location of tons of plastic waste floating between the West Coast and Hawaii. According to some estimates, the area is twice the size of Texas.
 
Slat said the group will publish a report of its findings by mid-2016. After that, the group hopes to test out a 1-mile barrier to collect garbage near Japan. The ultimate goal is the construction of a 60-mile barrier in the middle of the Pacific.
 
The expedition was sponsored by The Ocean Cleanup. It's an organization founded by Slat. He is a 21-year-old innovator from the Netherlands who has envisioned using long-distance floating barriers that will attach to the seabed with an anchoring system used by oil-drilling rigs. The devices will target ocean currents full of waste. The barriers would skim garbage from the surface while aquatic life and the currents themselves pass underneath.
 
He first became passionate about cleaning the oceans of plastic while diving in the Mediterranean Sea five years ago. "I was diving in Greece and realized that there were more plastic bags than fish. And I wondered why can't we clean this up," Slat said.
 
After dropping out of university after his first six months, Slat dedicated his life to developing the technology the group will start testing next year.
 
He decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign and raised about $2.27 million that helped to launch his organization. Soon, his innovative solution got the attention of major philanthropists in Europe and Silicon Valley. One was Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff. The philanthropists are helping pay for the data-gathering efforts and the technology's development.
 
The Pacific expedition, which will end in mid-September, will gather data that will be more extensive than what has been collected in the past 40 years. It also will give a better estimate of the how much plastic waste is in the Pacific Ocean, Slat said.
 
The boaters are using GPS and a smartphone app to search for and record the plastic. They take samples and ship them to the Netherlands. There, the plastics are counted and recorded.
 
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was discovered by Charles J. Moore in 1997 as he returned home from the Transpacific Yacht Race, which starts in Los Angeles and ends in Honolulu.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it important to track the trash?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (11)
  • stout,savannah-cas
    9/12/2015 - 11:48 a.m.

    It is critical that we track the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in order to maintain a healthy environment for wildlife in the ocean. If we wait any longer to clean up the garbage, the harder it will be to clean up, and the more dangerous it will be for the wildlife. I am a strong supporter of The Ocean Cleanup myself. As someone who aspires to become a marine biologist, I hope to become more involved with The Ocean Cleanup and help make the ocean a more livable habitat.

  • amyh-lon
    9/14/2015 - 11:13 a.m.

    It is important to track the trash because,The scientist that are working on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can find where the trash is headed and where it is building up. So in 2020 when the technology is available they can start removing large amounts of garbage. According to the article the trash build up as of now is twice the size as the state of Texas. Scientist are finding a way to clean up the garbage sooner so that the plastics do not break into smaller shards. In conclusion that is why it is important to track the garbage and maintain a healthy environment.

  • jaceg-lon
    9/14/2015 - 11:20 a.m.

    I agree what they are stating in this artical because it is important to keep are oceans clean or one day if we dont clean up the entire ocean will be filled with trash

  • richard-hab
    9/15/2015 - 11:14 a.m.

    I feel like the man in the article is doing a great thing for the marine wildlife by cleaning up the oceans. I also feel like he is very passionate about what he does

  • mp2016-cla
    9/15/2015 - 01:44 p.m.

    Its very good goal but when it comes down to its probably not going to get completed, if you think about it things just never go as planned as seen many times. It makes me mad that some people cant just throw there trash away its not that hard to do just find a trash can.

    Its important because if we let the trash in the ocean get out of hand many sea creatures will die from the plastic or the glass or anything like that.

  • baylees-day
    9/17/2015 - 08:29 p.m.

    I found a real interest in this article because I'm hoping to become a Marine Biologist, and joining this organization would be something I would honestly enjoy doing. The idea is great and with the right help, they could really eliminate a lot of waste that pile into the ocean. Not only do we, as a society, rely on the ocean, there is just such an abundant and amazing amount of marine life that lives there. With so much we have left to discover in the sea, it would be an absolute shame if some species die from pollution before we get a chance to uncover them.

  • eliseb-pla
    9/23/2015 - 10:12 p.m.

    This article is about scientists and volunteers who went far off of California's coast in the Pacific. They tracked and picked up garbage, on the journey they picked up massive amounts of garbage. This massive garbage expedition was picking up a spot called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Most of the garbage they found were medium to large pieces, including a one ton fishing net. The group will publish a report of there findings in the middle of 2016. I chose this article because I think it's very cool that these people are spending there time trying to help the enviroment and clean the ocean. This article connects to me because I take the environment and the well-being of the Earth very important.I believe the Earth won't last forever and we should do our part to help it survive for future generations.

  • andrewb1-day
    10/02/2015 - 05:35 p.m.

    This is very important for them to do because it can harm all of the animals in the ocean. This is all very cool of the volunteers to do to help get rid of the trash. I don't think that the garbage should be there in the first place if people didn't litter. If more people did this it could get done much faster.

  • taylorr-day
    10/09/2015 - 01:38 p.m.

    I think maintaining a healthy enviroment is important. Tracking the trash would help a lot with the sea life too. If we dont do it, more and more animals will die due to the polution.

  • alyssak-day
    10/21/2015 - 01:37 p.m.

    I find myself appreciating the time and effort of people like this. The amount of trash that is put into the ocean is so immense. All of this trash floating around the sea is extremely harmful to the animals that inhabitant it and even the people who swim in it. Overall, its just not good for the world. The ocean needs more teams to help clean it up.

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