How Effective are Efforts to Clean Marine Plastic Pollution?

How it Works

To dive into the interesting details, some images of The Ocean Cleanup’s work can quickly get to the point:

“Boyan Slat on the Interceptor 002 in the Klang River, Malaysia.” — The Ocean Cleanup
“System 001/B — Parachute configuration” — The Ocean Cleanup
“Plastic retention in front of the extended cork line, from System 001/B” — The Ocean Cleanup

What are the Benefits?

The Ocean Cleanup’s work is very different from other organisations that work on cleanup activities, which often involve manual cleanup of beaches or shallow waters. The autonomous approach at The Ocean Cleanup is comparatively more scalable in cleaning plastic waste, because it doesn’t rely on volunteers and doesn’t involve costs in hiring many staff.

Source: the amazing team at Our World in Data

What are the Limitations?

Now, this sounds great when it comes to cleaning the plastic waste in the oceans. But as I mentioned before, only about 2.9% of all plastic waste generated per year ends up in the ocean (Source). The overall plastic waste issue is a lot bigger than just ocean plastic waste.

Does this Area need More Attention?

It seems like The Ocean Cleanup is already leading new and innovative solutions that can scalably address ocean plastic pollution. And other organisations working on this cause via manual cleanups with volunteers and staff are even less effective at scalably solving this (short term) issue.

  • Speeding up the cost-effective development of alternative plastics (Source)
  • Creating policies to make producers responsible for the waste generated from their products (Source)

Before You Go

Hey, if you found that article interesting, feel free to check out some of my other research at If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to get in touch with me via Linkedin.



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Madhav Malhotra

Madhav Malhotra

Cofounder at The Plastic Shift. Learning how to create a sustainable planet. Linkedin: