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Helmsley Charitable Trust and The Ocean Cleanup Join Forces for Scale-Up to Clean the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

HONOLULU, June 8, 2024 — In celebration of World Oceans Day, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and global non-profit project The Ocean Cleanup are accelerating the scale-up of ocean cleaning efforts. A $15 million grant from Helmsley will support the cleanup of plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, reducing the negative effects of plastic debris, including microplastics, on the health of marine animals and humans.

Since 2019 The Ocean Cleanup has captured hundreds of tons of plastic from the ocean. Its latest ocean-cleaning system, System 03, is currently deployed in a validation phase in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is located between Hawaii and California and covers an area twice the size of Texas.

The Ocean Cleanup is now preparing to scale its technology with the goal of eventually deploying a full fleet of systems to the GPGP. Continuous research and data-gathering will help increase a greater understanding of the plastics problem and lower the projected cost of harvested plastic, which is then returned to shore and passed on to partners for processing and a new life use as part of durable, recyclable products.

“Plastic pollution in the ocean is a complex, vast, and solvable problem, and this ambitious project with The Ocean Cleanup is one important step forward. The Ocean Cleanup’s work is already showing success, but to eliminate plastic from the ocean, we will need more large-scale efforts and more partnerships between organizations in the private, public, and philanthropic sectors,” said Walter Panzirer, Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “The harm of microplastics to marine life directly affects every one of us, and we must take action to reduce microplastics and safeguard both ocean and human health.”

“2023 has been the year that we transitioned from System 002, which was our prototype system, half a mile long, to System 03, a mile and a half in length, which is the world’s first full-scale ocean clean-up system, dramatically increasing our catches—up to almost 50 tons in a single trip by the end of the year. On top of that, we’ve been able to innovate countless other things including the MASH, the Marine Animal Safety Hatch, through which we now have a way to actively expel any marine life that is not supposed to enter the clean-up system. The result of all of this has been that we are now cleaning an area the size of a football field every five seconds,” said Boyan Slat, founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup.

“We’re particularly grateful for the Helmsley Charitable Trust for being such an early mover in this and helping us through this challenging developmental phase, enabling us to unlock the scale up and with that, make the largest clean up in history a reality.”

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans. Located halfway between Hawaii and California, the GPGP covers an area twice the size of Texas. Analysis from scientists at The Ocean Cleanup showed that the GBGP is 4 to 16 times greater than past calculations, consisting of 100,000 tons of plastic—equivalent to the weight of 740 Boeing 777s.

Not only does plastic pollution in the ocean pose risks for the safety and health of marine animals, but there are health and economic implications for humans as well. Microplastics, which are formed when plastics break down into sizes smaller than 5mm, are harming organisms from small, essential plankton all the way to top feeders in the ocean ecosystem—including humans.

Animals confuse the plastic for food, causing malnutrition; plastic poses entanglement risks and threatens their overall behavior, health, and existence. Studies have shown that about 900 species have encountered marine debris, and 92 percent of these interactions are with plastic. 17% of the species affected by plastic are on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

Through a process called bioaccumulation, chemicals in plastics will enter the body of the animal feeding on the plastic, and as the feeder becomes prey, the chemicals will pass to the predator – making their way up the food web that includes humans. These chemicals that affected the plastic feeders could then be present within the human as well.

According to a study The Ocean Cleanup conducted in collaboration with Deloitte, yearly economic costs due to marine plastic are estimated to be $6 billion to $19 billion. The costs stem from its impact on tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, and (governmental) cleanups. These costs do not include the impact on human health and the marine ecosystem (due to insufficient research available).

In addition to cleaning up the existing legacy plastic in the ocean, The Ocean Cleanup also addresses new emissions of plastic flowing into the ocean from rivers, using a portfolio of Interceptor Solutions.




About The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $4.5 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. For more information on Helmsley and its programs, visit helmsleytrust.org.


About The Ocean Cleanup
The Ocean Cleanup is an international non-profit project that develops and scales technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. They aim to achieve this goal through a dual strategy: intercepting in rivers to stop the inflow, while cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean. For the latter, The Ocean Cleanup develops and deploys large-scale systems to efficiently concentrate the plastic for periodic removal. This plastic is tracked and traced through a certified chain of custody model to verify claims of origin when recycling it into new products. To stop the inflow via rivers, The Ocean Cleanup has developed Interceptor™ Solutions to halt and extract riverine plastic before it reaches the ocean. Founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup now employs a broadly multi-disciplined team of approximately 140. The foundation is headquartered in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and opened its first regional office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2023. For more information visit www.theoceancleanup.com and follow @theoceancleanup on social media.





Michelle Tsai, mtsai@helmsleytrust.org