Consultancies support world's largest ocean clean-up

02 November 2018 4 min. read
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Global consulting firms Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte are among a list of more than 30 businesses and universities to have partnered with the world’s largest ocean cleaning mission. Ocean Cleanup has commenced the deployment of its huge system aimed at eliminating the infamous ‘vortex’ of refuse which has grown in the Pacific ocean in recent years.

The use of plastic packaging and other single-use materials has boomed over the last century. While versatile and seemingly cost-effective, however, the toll these materials have taken on the environment and various ecosystems has helped push the world to the brink of an environmental catastrophe.

Leakage of rubbish into waterways will mean that there is more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish by 2050, according to a McKinsey & Company study, while the concluding episode of the BBC’s landmark natural history series, Blue Planet II,  highlighted how 8 million tonnes of plastic waste are entering the marine ecosystem each year. The episode, aired at the end of 2017, depicted albatross parents unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic and mother dolphins potentially exposing their new-born calves to pollutants through their contaminated milk, shocking almost 12 million viewers across the UK.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has become emblematic of this systemic failure of businesses and governments to tackle the huge levels of plastic waste destabilising the earth’s water. The patch is a vortex of discarded materials created from an ocean gyre in the central North Pacific. The so-called ‘trash vortex’ – which is now so large, it is easily detectable from space via satellites, covering 1.6 million square kilometres and holding 1.8 trillion pieces of debris – was discovered in the mid-1980s and lies halfway between Hawaii and California. Some 30 years later, efforts to dismantle the man-made phenomenon are finally due to get underway.

Consultancies support world's largest ocean clean-up

The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organisation, founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat at the age of 18 in his hometown of Delft, the Netherlands. It has since worked to develop advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. By utilising ocean currents to the project’s advantage, the organisation’s passive drifting systems are estimated to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years’ time.

Using a series of floating booms, the $20 million system eventually aims to reuse and recycle the ocean plastic. With the first boom system having been launched from San Francisco Bay in late 2018, it will now undergo several weeks of testing before being hauled into full-on action, alongside a fleet of dozens of more booms. Each boom will trap up to 150,000 pounds of plastic per year as they float along the currents between California and Hawaii, and it is estimated that the system will clean up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the first five years of deployment.

The project has been supported by some 34 businesses and universities, with some of the world’s largest consulting firms among them. Deloitte is listed by Ocean Cleanup as one of the most generous partners of the scheme. According to a statement from the firm, “The Ocean Cleanup is an absolute frontrunner in sustainable innovations and this also is a top priority for Deloitte. Deloitte supports The Ocean Cleanup to further professionalise their organisation and operations.”

The Boston Consulting Group is also listed among the initiative’s official partners. BCG works with The Ocean Cleanup to help maximise its impact and effectiveness, from developing a funding strategy for plastic extraction technologies, to building a revenue-generating business connected to its core activities in order to generate sustainable income streams. Alongside the two consulting firms, the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft, Seiche Water Technology Group and The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment populate the broader partnership spaces of the operation, as well as nine universities from across the world.

Related: EY becomes latest Big Four firm to ban plastic cups from UK offices.