The Clean Oceans Project (TCOP) is an environmental non-profit organization formed in 2008 in Santa Cruz, California, by a group of concerned scientists, educators, activists, and business professionals out of a shared sense of urgency that plastic accumulations in the world's oceans are threatening the lives of millions of marine mammals, birds and fish.
TCOP has created a targeted, multi-phase approach to achieve our goal of removing plastic pollution from the world's oceans. We are collaborating with leading research scientists at Stanford University, the Naval Postgraduate School of Monterey, UC Santa Cruz and the High Seas Ghost Net Project to develop testing protocols and to conduct ground-proofing operations in both near-shore and off-shore environments.
Phase One operations have focused on testing several remote sensing systems in the near shore environment to assess their efficacy in identifying debris field concentrations prior to offshore deployment. The results from these tests have been overwhelmingly positive and indicate that successful prediction and location of plastic debris is possible.
Phase Two operations will build upon the results from Phase One and will involve replicating our testing protocols on a small scale, on site, in the North Pacific Gyre during the next available summer season. TCOP has been working with experts in the oil spill response industry to design a prototype surface skimming collection system to be deployed during this phase of testing. We will also be taking a solar powered plastic-to-fuel conversion system with us to investigate the potential for creating fuel from plastic harvested in the gyre.
Phase Three operations will commence in the North Pacific Gyre once the technology package and collection methods have proven successful at locating and removing plastic debris, and final funding for the project has been secured.
To measure our progress during Phase Three, we will monitor the weight of plastic debris collected on a weekly basis and compile that data throughout the project to compare projected harvest levels with those actually achieved in the field. At the outset, we will be targeting larger pieces of plastic, but as our experience grows, we anticipate refining our collection methods to target ever smaller pieces of plastic debris. We believe that this approach will maximize the amount of plastic recovered, while minimizing the impact our efforts have on the surrounding ecosystem.
TCOP has partnered with Blest Co. of Japan, makers of a unique, scalable plastic-to-fuel conversion system, and Blest's exclusive US distributor, E-N-ergy of San Jose, California, to develop the first shipboard plastic-to-fuel conversion system in the world. This system will be capable of transforming tons of plastic pollution harvested from the gyre into diesel fuel, thus eliminating the need to return to shore to dispose of the waste in a landfill, while also providing fuel for the collection vessels.
Long Term Commitments
TCOP is committed to a comprehensive and global approach to solving the marine plastic pollution problem. To that end, we are committed to the following;
- gathering and disseminating plastics data to increase understanding of the gyre and its impact on humans and the environment
- providing a platform for ongoing marine research and technical innovation
- creating awareness of the marine plastics issue through volunteer and internship programs
- advocating for an end to single-use plastic items and extensive packaging
- developing more efficient collection methods as new technologies become available
- replicating our project model and deploying large-scale gyre cleanup efforts in the other major subtropical convergence zones of the world
Support and Funding
In order to implement both the short term and long term goals of this project, TCOP is actively seeking support from major corporations as well as philanthropic entities and individual donors to provide operational funding and logistical support. Additional partnerships and sponsorships will be sought as required for specific operations.
Our health and the survival of our species depend upon the health of our oceans. They are not the inexhaustible resource we once thought they were, and globally, they are in a rapid state of decline. Oceans play a critical role in maintaining our climate by storing solar heat and carbon, and they provide food, recreation, and inspiration for those fortunate enough to enjoy them.
The world's oceans contain the largest and most unexplored environments on our planet, while their plants are responsible for creating over half the oxygen we breathe. Humanity has consistently shown its ability to significantly affect the world around us. The time has come for us to begin this cleanup project and restore the health of our oceans before we damage them beyond repair and this shameful, man-made environmental disaster becomes irreversible.
Finally, and it bears repeating, our message is that no one solution will solve this problem. Without significant changes in consumer habits, the reduction of single-use plastic products, better waste handling and recycling infrastructure, and the introduction of safe and sustainable plastic alternatives, this problem will persist and cleanup efforts will be for naught. We will communicate this message whenever and wherever possible.