Why can’t we help reduce ocean pollution by scooping all the surface water trash?

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Why can’t we help reduce ocean pollution by scooping all the surface water trash?

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And then what would you do with all that trash on the ground?

We can, and it is being done. Check out https://theoceancleanup.com/, also lots of videos on YouTube about the process and how they’re doing it.

We can but it’s expensive so there’s not much incentive to do it in any large enough scale.

As a preface, I’m doing a PhD on marine plastic pollution so I have some background here.

As /u/Jak1977 said, it is possible _in theory_, and The Ocean Cleanup has recieved a lot of media attention for their plans to scoop up trash from the ocean surface. Only a relatively small proportion of plastic that has entered the ocean is actually floating at the surface (most of it is [probably in sediment on the ocean floor](https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.140317)), but floating plastic likely has the highest potential to cause environmental damage, so there’s a good reason why we’re concerned about it.

The main issue is that the ocean is enormous. This may seem like an obvious statement but most people don’t realise just how incredibly huge the ocean is, and marine debris isn’t conveniently floating around in a neat, dense pile. Many marine scientists are highly skeptical of The Ocean Cleanup’s claims, and one of the main arguments against them is the fact that – despite investing millions – they have [only managed to clear around 60 tons of debris](https://twitter.com/TheOceanCleanup/status/1511358604724654082). This may seem like a lot, but we are currently dumping around [5-12 _million_ tons of plastic into the ocean per year](https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1260352). In other words, despite an enormous amount of investment, The Ocean Cleanup’s impact is currently literally a drop in the ocean. To make any meaningful impact on the mass of plastic floating in the ocean, The Ocean Cleanup would have to scale up their efforts by a factor of at least 1,000-10,000. It’s very difficult to see how they (or anybody else) could possibly do that.