Vessels return to Victoria after collecting 8 tonnes of trash from Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Ocean Cleanup organization is based in the Netherlands but two of its vessels are docked at Ogden Point in Victoria. (Ocean Cleanup)

A crew of sailors has returned to Victoria from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, hauling away more than eight tonnes of plastic pollution.

 But their work is far from over.

“That’s not as much as we plan on bringing back in October,” said Ocean Cleanup spokesperson Joost Dubois.

Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit group established in 2014 with an ambitious goal of cleaning up the world’s ocean plastic.

“Out of the water, back on land and into recycling or waste management,” Dubois said.

The organization is based in the Netherlands but two of its vessels are docked at Ogden Point in Victoria. After a crew change and fresh supplies, they’ll venture back out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

That’s where Ocean Cleanup spent its last six weeks, testing its trash collecting system.

“The first trip of the campaign was very much a testing and optimization period, where we were using ‘Jenny’ as we call our system fondly, for the first time,” said Dubois.

“Really we’re at the tipping point of testing to really cleaning up. Right now we’ve never had the system in the water long enough to fill the retention zone.”

“Jenny” is the crew’s nickname for the massive horseshoe-shaped device, pulled behind two offshore supply ships. It collects ocean plastics and traps them in a rectangular retention zone the size of a school bus.

“The plastic is guided in through these long wings,” said Dubois. “The full retention zone will be about 10 to 12 tonnes of plastic in one haul.”

On Saturday, Ocean Cleanup’s new crew will set sail and by the end of September, the hope is to fill “Jenny” to the brim for the very first time.

“We have our first five-day continuous test scheduled,” said Dubois,

“So the first time they lift that entire retention zone as full as a pregnant whale… lift that on deck and empty it, that’s going to be a big moment for us because that will feel like OK, now we have really started to clean up the ocean – we’re no longer just testing.”

The goal is to return to Victoria on Oct. 20 with upwards of 30 to 40 tonnes of plastic debris.

“Don’t hold us to it. We still have to deliver, but that is what we are internally looking at,” said Dubois.

Ocean Cleanup will continue testing and improving its systems with the hope of introducing a second “Jenny” to its fleet next year.

“That should become the blueprint for real scale-up and then we can make multiple systems in one go and then the speed of operation is going to go up tremendously,” said Dubois

“We will need like, 10 ‘Jennies’ to cover the entire Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

Ocean Cleanup hopes to remove about 90 per cent of the world’s ocean plastics by 2040.