There are an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic trash in the ocean, with an estimated 8 million added each year. 7.764 million out of the 8 million tons added annually are macroplastics. Plastic pollution like water bottles, plastic bags, and styrofoam from coastlines face no barriers getting out to deep sea, where they break down into microplastics, becoming more difficult to clean up. These microplastics negatively affect marine biodiversity and ultimately, all life on the planet.
The technical capabilities to create some solutions to marine plastic pollution mostly exist, but resources - time and money - haven’t yet been invested in engineering projects dealing with this issue. NOAA estimated in 2015 that cleaning up less than 1% of the north Pacific Ocean would cost between “$122 million and $489 million for the year” using large boats with nets for the cleanup. Also, existing solutions to prevent plastics from reaching deep sea have no means to distinguish between plastics and marine life, further endangering those species (yikes!).
We're building F.L.O.A.T.I.B.O.I. (Floating Long-term Oceanic Autonomous Trawler Incorporating Buoyant Object Identification) - a method to actively prevent plastic from going out to sea by collecting it in nearshore waters while it is still mostly intact. F.L.O.A.T.I.B.O.I will harness renewable energy to keep its carbon footprint low, and artificial intelligence to aid with object identification. Addressing the high overhead and operational costs by creating a much lower-cost solution focusing on prevention rather than cleanup will allow us to make more progress towards stopping plastic from entering our oceans in the first place.