Record-breaking season prompts non-profit group to raise the bar on open ocean clean-up after 340,000 pounds of plastic waste pulled from Great Pacific Garbage Patch
HONOLULU, HI — August 5, 2020 Ocean Voyages Institute’s marine plastic recovery vessel, S/V KWAI, docked in Honolulu today, after 35 days at sea, successfully concluding the second and final haul of the non-profit group’s 2020 open ocean recovery mission, adding 67 tons to the record-setting 103 tons (206,000 pounds) removed in June, which became the largest open ocean clean-up in history.
The non-profit group’s total for the summer season now amounts to 170 tons (340,000 pounds) of ghost nets and plastic debris removed from the North Pacific Gyre (Great Pacific Garbage Patch), a staggering amount, which quadruples the group’s previous year’s record.
Ocean Voyages Institute’s Founder and Executive Director Mary T. Crowley states her group’s efforts are just getting started. “With plastic set to outnumber fish by 2040, we humans are responsible for the oceans collapsing in my lifetime, and we must set ambitious targets to tackle the problem of plastic in the ocean,” continuing, “even with our record-setting clean-up, I know we need to do more, and our 1 million pound goal is my commitment to the essential undertaking of cleaning the oceans of plastic.”
Ocean Voyages Institute’s high seas clean-up expedition began in May, with a 48-day mission, followed by a second 35-day leg which departed on July 1st, with the KWAI logging more than 5000 nautical miles from Hawaii to the Pacific Gyre and back twice this summer.
Today in Honolulu, Ocean Voyages Institute crew returned with a cargo hold full of ghost fishing nets and toxic plastic debris for the second time this summer. While docked in Honolulu, the ship’s crew will sort the debris into various types of plastics for upcycling and recycling with help from local volunteer groups.
“This summer definitely had its challenges, from COVID-19 and having to quarantine our hard-working crew, to almost not being able to depart on the second leg of our mission due to funding gaps,” added Crowley. “Now I feel like we are on a roll, and the support from around the world has been so encouraging, I know we will reach our million pound goal and keep going cleaning our oceans and encouraging major changes in the use of plastics.”
When carbon in the atmosphere is photosynthesized by algae in the oceans, zooplantkon eat the algae and drop carbon-rich feces to the sea-floor. Plastics are disrupting the ocean’s ability to store carbon, as zooplankton also ingest plastic.
ByFusion teams up with Ocean Voyages Institute to convert 40,000 lbs of plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch into construction-grade building material
ByFusion announces off-take partnership with Ocean Voyages Institute (OVI), repurposing 20 tons of marine debris and plastic waste into construction grade building materials. The ByFusion-OVI partnership will ‘close the loop’ on the largest ocean clean up in history by not only removing plastic waste from our oceans but giving it a permanent purpose by converting it to a building material that can be used for modular structures, landscaping, sheds, outdoor spaces and a number of other applications.
In June 2020 OVI completed a 48-day mission to collect plastic marine debris from the ocean which took place in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located halfway between Hawaii and California. The GPGP is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world, spanning an area twice the size of Texas.
The Kwai, the ship collecting the debris, departed from Hilo, Hawaii on May 4, 2020 and returned to Honolulu, Hawaii on June 29, 2020. Mary Crowley, the Founder & Executive Director of OVI, spearheaded the plastic cleanup efforts which ultimately removed more than 100 tons of plastic from the Pacific Ocean, the largest collection in history.
“It’s an honor to have all these toxic materials out of the ocean,” said Crowley. “They’ll be recycled and repurposed— nothing will end up in a landfill, nothing will ever go back in the ocean. The ocean is a source of health for us as a planet and for us as human beings. We have to take care of it and provide a healthy habitat for ocean creatures.”
Of the debris collected, ByFusion will repurpose 20 tons into approximately 4,000 construction-grade building blocks which will be put to use in a number of projects, exhibitions, and products that will be available in the market later this year.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of this important initiative, supporting the incredible work that OVI is doing to clean up the ocean,” said Heidi Kujawa, CEO of ByFusion. “Our zero waste process creates a valuable building material from all types of plastic waste, including marine debris and fishing nets, ensuring the plastic is repurposed and put to good use.”
The remaining 80 tons of marine debris will be converted into reusable fuel, shoes, apparel, and more. This record-breaking 103 ton cleanup is just the beginning of collecting and giving purpose to the 150 million tons of plastic polluting the world’s oceans.
ByFusion® is an innovative manufacturing company committed to preserving the recycling industry, protecting the environment and giving plastic a new life by reshaping its future. A certified B Corporation, and an essential cog in the wheel of a circular economy, ByFusion has a patented process that converts all types of plastic waste into an advanced building material called ByBlock®. ByFusion’s recycling solution enables communities, corporations and governments to realize a cleaner world while creating jobs, improving infrastructure and revitalizing neighborhoods. ByFusion has been recognized by The New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company, Architect, Recycling Today, WasteDive, 1% for the Planet, US Green Building Council, and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.
HONOLULU, HI — June 23, 2020 – Ocean Voyages Institute’s marine plastic recovery vessel, S/V KWAI, docked at the port of Honolulu today, after a 48-day expedition, successfully removing 103 tons (206,000 lbs.) of fishing nets and consumer plastics from the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, more commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Gyre.
Establishing its lead in open ocean clean-up, Ocean Voyages Institute has set a new record with the largest at sea clean-up in the Gyre to date, more than doubling its own results from last year.
“I am so proud of our hard working crew,” says Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of Ocean Voyages Institute. “We exceeded our goal of capturing 100 tons of toxic consumer plastics and derelict ‘ghost’ nets, and in these challenging times, we are continuing to help restore the health of our ocean, which influences our own health and the health of the planet.”
Crowley adds: “The oceans can’t wait for these nets and debris to break down into microplastics which impair the ocean’s ability to store carbon and toxify the fragile ocean food web.”
Known as the “Ghost Net Buster,” Crowley is renowned for developing effective methods to remove significant amounts of plastics out of the ocean, including 48 tons (96,000 lbs.) of toxic plastics during two ocean clean-ups in 2019, one from the Gyre and one from the waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands.
“There is no cure-all solution to ocean clean-up: It is the long days at sea, with dedicated crew scanning the horizon, grappling nets, and retrieving huge amounts of trash, that makes it happen,” says Locky MacLean, a former director at Sea Shepherd and ocean campaigner in marine conservation for two decades.
The GPS satellite trackers used by Ocean Voyages Institute since 2018 are proving Crowley’s theory that one tracker can lead to many nets. The ocean frequently sorts debris so that a tagged fishing net can lead to other nets and a density of debris within a 15 mile radius.
The Pacific Gyre, located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest area with the most plastic, of the five major open ocean plastic accumulation regions, or Gyres, in the world’s oceans.
“We are utilizing proven nautical equipment to effectively clean-up the oceans while innovating with new technologies,” says Crowley. “Ocean Voyages Institute has been a leader in researching and accomplishing ocean clean-up for over a decade, granted with less fanfare and attention than others, but with passion and commitment and making meaningful impacts.”
Ocean Voyages Institute will be unloading the record-breaking haul of ocean plastic debris while docked alongside Pier 29 thanks to the support of Honolulu-based Matson, in preparation for upcycling and proper disposal.
“In keeping with our commitment to environmental stewardship, Matson has been searching for a way to get involved in cleaning up the Pacific Gyre,” said Matt Cox, chairman and CEO. “We’ve been impressed with the groundbreaking efforts of Ocean Voyages Institute and the progress they’ve made with such a small organization, and we hope our support will help them continue this important work.”
An Expanded 2020 Expedition
When the sailing cargo ship, S/V KWAI, arrived in Honolulu today, it completed a 48-day at sea clean-up mission that began at the Hawaiian port of Hilo on May 4, after a three week self- imposed quarantine period to ensure the health of crew members and safety of the mission, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the expedition, the KWAI’s multinational crew collected marine plastic pollution with the help of GPS satellite trackers that Ocean Voyages Institute designed with engineer Andy Sybrandy, of Pacific Gyre, Inc. These beacons are placed on nets by volunteer yachts and ships. Drones, as well as lookouts up the mast, enable the ship’s crew to hone in on the debris. They then recover the litter, place it in industrial bags, and store it in the ship’s cargo hold for proper recycling and repurposing at the end of the voyage.
S/V KWAI, led by Captain Brad Ives, and Ocean Voyages Institute are planning a second voyage to the Gyre departing the end of June to continue clean-up of this area, which is so besieged by toxic debris. The length of a second summer leg will be determined by how successful Ocean Voyages Institute is in securing additional donations.
“Our solutions are scalable, and next year, we could have three vessels operating in the North Pacific Gyre for three months all bringing in large cargos of debris,” says Crowley. “We are aiming to expand to other parts of the world desperately needing efficient clean-up technologies.”
Crowley adds: “There is no doubt in my mind that our work is making the oceans healthier for the planet and safer for marine wildlife, as these nets will never again entangle or harm a whale, dolphin, turtle or reefs.”
Sausalito, CA – Ocean Voyages Institute, a nonprofit organization, announced today that it has successfully removed more than 40 tons of fishing nets and consumer plastics from the area known as the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, or more commonly known as the Pacific Gyre.
The sailing cargo ship, S/V KWAI, arrived in Honolulu today, having completed a 25-day clean up mission. In the Pacific, between California and Hawaii, four ocean currents converge to create a vortex that collects huge amounts of plastics. One sees detergent bottles, beer and soft drink crates, bleach and cleaning bottles, plastic furniture, packaging straps, buckets, children’s toys, and myriad types of plastic floating mid-ocean. This debris field covers vast expanses of ocean.
A prime target for OV Institute’s 2019 voyage was the fishing gear called “ghost nets.” Often weighing tons, these massive nets of nylon or polypropylene drift for decades, amassing plastic debris, ensnaring wildlife, and even entangling ships. An estimated 600,000 tons of this abandoned gear ends up in the oceans every year. According to the United Nations, some 380,000 marine mammals are killed every year by either ingesting or being caught in it.
“Satellite technology played a key role in our recovery effort, offering an innovative solution to finding areas of dense plastic pollution,” said Mary Crowley, Founder and Executive Director of OV Institute. “The nets and other debris are signs of the proliferating plastic pollution that poses threats to marine life, coastal environments, shipping, fisheries, wildlife and our health.”
OV Institute utilized expert drone operators on board, flying survey patterns off of both KWAI and our plastic survey vessel AVEIA to find additional debris. The effectiveness of this year’s mission reinforces our plan for expanded clean up missions in 2020 over a 3-month period, using the S/V KWAI and additional clean up vessels, one of which will be adapting fishing gear to fish for plastics.
During the past year, OV Institute recruited yachts and ships to attach satellite trackers to the ghost nets they encountered. These bowling ball-sized trackers, once activated, signal the nets’ locations in real time. This data enables OV Institute to find and retrieve the trackers and ghost nets. As the ocean tends to sort debris, the tagged nets, have shown us to areas of heavy debris distribution, so that many additional nets and other items can be harvested.
OV Institute collaborated with Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner of the University of Hawaii, coordinating the NASA-funded FloatEco project that studies physical processes controlling long-range drift of marine debris and its accumulation in some areas of the ocean as well as biological processes controlling evolution of the pelagic floating ecosystem.
Ocean plastic pollution was unknown merely forty years ago. Today, plastic has been documented in the deepest parts of the ocean—near the Mariana Trench (depth 36,000 feet) and in the most remote ocean ecosystems, such as Antarctica.
Crowley, a lifelong sailor, launched her first 30-day research expedition to the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone in 2009. Additional expeditions occurred in the following years, including small scale clean up missions.
“It is very disturbing to be sailing through what was only decades ago a pristine ocean wilderness and find it filled with our all-too-familiar garbage,” says Crowley. “Urgent action is needed at all levels: curtailing the manufacture of throwaway plastics, preventing plastic trash from entering the oceans, and enlisting the public, corporations, and the maritime industry in education, prevention, innovation and massive cleanup efforts. The question is, are we ready to make it a priority to protect 72 percent of the planet?”
Ocean Voyages Institute’s 2019 Expedition will be REMOVING ghost nets and massive amounts of plastic from the North Pacific Gyre. Our actions provide solutions: • Capturing ghost nets/debris that we tagged with Satellite trackers before it entangle and kill marine life • Removing toxic plastics from our ocean and food chain • Restoring the health of our ocean • Preventing damage to ships, boats, reefs and shorelines • Ocean Voyages Institute (OVI) plans to share our technology and best practices globally with the intent of inspiring others to join our efforts worldwide • We already have partners throughout the world including others joining our ghost net retrieval this spring in Sweden and Hong Kong
WE in the maritime industry know and understand this in a way few others do. As mariners, many of us see the problem first hand. We can all be dynamic parts of the solution by our stewardship on our own yachts and supporting effective at-sea ocean clean-up.
People are beginning to realise the magnitude of this
urgent issue and are seeking solutions. I am sure many of you
are aware of the devices being designed for ocean clean-up. I
herald all efforts for viable solutions, however, I deeply believe
that we already have the right equipment and expertise within
the professional maritime industry to accomplish efficient ocean
clean-up now with well proven equipment.
During the kick-off year of our ghost net clean-up in 2018, 18 satellite trackers were deployed by various vessels of opportunity in the Pacific. With the help of citizen scientists and other ships of opportunity, OVI will continue to tag large, floating plastic debris in the North Pacific Gyre with our satellite tracking buoys. Continuing into 2019 there will be additional trackers deployed with plans for a clean-up expedition mid-year. The goal is to continue this cycle of tagging and clean-up in following years.
Assembly bill AB 521 introduced this past February aims to clean up marine debris and shift the cost of controlling pollution to the responsibility of the manufacturers who produce it. Introduced by assemblymen Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) and Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), the bill declares plans to identify the products that contribute most to plastic ocean trash, set goals for recycling more of them, and reduce the litter they create.