eXXpedition - Taking a dive into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

TOMRA will be sailing with an ocean research mission, documenting marine litter in the North Pacific Ocean.

eXXpedition will sail through the gyre of plastic pollution known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with the aim of raising awareness of and solutions for the environmental and health impacts of single-use plastic in the world’s oceans. As eXXpedition explains, their goal is “to make the unseen seen, from the toxins in our bodies to the plastics in our seas”. eXXpedition will be joined by Kristine M. Berg, TOMRA Circular Economy Communicator who will assist with the research. Read on to learn more about the trash gyres in our oceans, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and why a team of awesome women are spending several weeks of their summer documenting it.

A map of cold and warm currents across each of the oceans.
What is an ocean gyre?
An ocean gyre is a system of circular ocean currents that are created by wind patterns, tides, and differences in temperature and water salinity. These are five major zones in the world’s oceans where large amounts of plastic accumulate and they're found in almost every ocean on the planet; the North and South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic and the in the Indian Ocean. Plastic and debris travel with the ocean currents, get drawn into the gyre’s center by its circular motions, and become trapped.

The largest of these is called the 
Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located halfway between Hawaii and California. The patch is not one solid piece of garbage thick enough to stand on, but more of a massive, swirling vortex of garbage. The plastic in the patch makes the water in the area a cloudy soup, with a mixture of smaller and larger pieces. Most of the waste eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean, making the waste difficult to see, research, and remove.

Breaking down the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

1.15 to 2.41 million metric tons of plastic from all over the world enter the ocean each year, and much of it is collected in major gyres such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Research by The Ocean Cleanup Foundation shows that most of the plastic in the patch is larger objects such as fishing ropes, nets, crates and baskets. There are also a lot of disposable plastics in the patch, such as bottles and straws. It's estimated that there are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing in at a total of 80,000 tons, or the same as 500 jumbo jets. The patch covers an area three times the size of France, or twice the size of Texas.  

When plastic waste floats in the ocean, sun, waves, marine life and more will break the plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces. Large plastic objects will after a while turn into trillions of smaller microplastics. When plastic becomes this small, it becomes very difficult to remove and can be found at the ocean’s surface and at depths as low as the ocean floor. These small plastics cause problems for marine animals because they mistake it for food, and problems for humans because it contaminates our food.

eXXpedition is sailing across the North Pacific to raise awareness around the impact that plastic waste has on our planet and contribute to information on how we can tackle the plastic crisis we are facing today. This research is important because the amount of plastic in our oceans is only increasing, creating major problems for all life on earth. Therefore, we need innovative solutions on how to remove waste from the ocean, and on how to keep it from entering the ocean in the first place.