Race for Water Odyssey: A first global report about plastic pollution in the oceans

In March 2015, the Race for Water Foundation launched a 10-month expedition for a first global assessment of plastic pollution in the oceans – the Race for Water Odyssey. The distribution of waste throughout wide surface areas makes it difficult to access and to study. The limited knowledge about plastic debris in the oceans also comes from the complexity of comparing the different, isolated studies that have been carried out to date. The aim of the Race for Water Odyssey is therefore to collect comparable data in all of the accumulation zones. Islands located in these accumulation zones were selected as the pollution that affects their shorelines is representative of the surrounding waters. Data has already been collected in the Azores, Bermuda, Easter Island, Malden Island, and Koror.

 

Science and Technology to assess marine litter

During this expedition, comparable data is collected in all of the trash vortices following defined protocols as well as using innovative technologies.

Micro and meso debris are collected, categorized and weighed and then brought to Switzerland to be analyzed and categorized at the EPFL (typology). The samples will then be analyzed in other renowned universities: the University of Bordeaux (ecotoxicology) and the HEIFR (micro pollutants).  The selected beaches are also mapped by senseFly drones to identify and categorize macro debris. The images provided by the drone mapping are currently being analyzed by the University of Duke and the Oregon State University and are released online here.


Raising awareness about a global concern

Sailing around the world, the teams of the expedition not only collect scientific data but also stop in global cities to raise awareness of the marine litter issue. Having stopped in Bordeaux, New York, Valparaiso, Santiago de Chile, Honolulu, Tokyo and Shanghai so far, the Race for Water Odyssey has met many local associations, governments and children.