British Columbia

60 cubic-metre bags of trash collected from Great Pacific Garbage Patch arrives in Vancouver

Sixty huge bags filled with plastic trash ranging from toothbrushes to fishing nets were brought ashore in Vancouver Thursday from a nonprofit vessel collecting plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

Bags contain umbrellas, fishing nets, crates and microplastics less than 1mm in size

Bags filled with plastic debris collected from the Pacific Ocean were brought ashore on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Sixty cubic-metre bags filled with plastic trash ranging from toothbrushes to fishing nets were brought ashore in Vancouver Thursday from a nonprofit vessel collecting plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

The trash is being collected as part of a larger initiative organized by the Ocean Cleanup, which originated in the Netherlands but uses B.C. as its base. 

"We launched our cleanup system from Vancouver Island and now also today we're bringing the first plastic back to shore," said Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat. 

The vessel has spent the past two months collecting garbage, using a U-shaped contraption that acts like an artificial coastline to collect debris.

The Ocean Cleanup vessel is equipped with a U-shaped device that collects plastic similar to how debris washes up against a shoreline. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Ocean Cleanup is aiming to clean half of the garbage patch every five years. 

The patch is a massive accumulation of plastic and other trash in the northern Pacific Ocean about 2,000 kilometres from Vancouver.

The group estimated its size to be equivalent to 14,000 football fields. 

"That's the reason why we need such clean-up systems. If you were to just take a boat and skim for plastic, it would take forever, because it's mostly water, because it's really dispersed," Slat said.  

A shipping container with some of the plastic waste collected by The Ocean Cleanup project. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Slat got the idea to clean up the patch seven years ago when he was just 16. To see the first batch of material come in was a special moment. 

"Seeing it makes me really quite proud of what the team has delivered," he said.  

In order to achieve its ambitious plastic collection goal, the project will need to greatly expand its fleet from its current lone vessel. 

The group plans to recycle the collected materials into sustainable products, and reinvest the proceeds to further fund the cleanup. 

The Ocean Cleanup Project says fishing nets account for about 40 per cent of the plastic waste it found. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

About the Author

Micki Cowan

Reporter/producer

Micki is a reporter and producer at CBC Vancouver. Her passions are municipal issues and water security.

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