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The controversial effort to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch




Birds bathe near a trash can where the public is warned to stay out of the water in an area harboring high bacteria levels.
Birds bathe near a trash can where the public is warned to stay out of the water in an area harboring high bacteria levels.
David McNew/Getty Images

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In March, research revealed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch floating between California and Hawaii was 1.6 million square kilometers in size – more than twice as large as Texas and much bigger than previous estimates.

The study was carried out over the course of three years by Netherlands-based nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup, which is also behind a major effort to reduce the Garbage Patch by half in the next five years.

The nonprofit, founded by 24-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, has developed a 2,000 foot long trash-catching invention to attract the waste in the rotating ocean gyre as if it were a drain. It’s scheduled to be released from Alameda this September, and if it survives the elements and successfully traps plastic, the organization plans to deploy 60 others to help with the clean up effort. But many scientists say Slat is simplifying a much more complicated problem.

Larry sits down with the lead scientist from The Ocean Cleanup, a reporter following the story and the local oceanographer who originally discovered the garbage patch more than 20 years ago to talk about the nature of the Patch and the effort to clean it up.

Guests:

Laurent Lebreton, lead scientist at The Ocean Cleanup and lead author of the study showing the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch published in Scientific Reports in March

James Rainey, LA-based reporter at NBC News digital who interviewed The Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat in June; he tweets @RaineyTime

Charles Moore, oceanographer and founder of the Algalita Marine Research and Education, a Long Beach-based nonprofit committed to solving the plastic pollution crisis through research and education; he discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997; he co-wrote the book “Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans” (Avery, 2011)