Conquering the ‘Plastic Vortex’
- by Tim Hyland
In our Summer issue, contributing writer Mike Unger profiled Doug Woodring, WG’95, an environmental consultant and start-up expert who over past few years has been working toward a seemingly impossible goal: Removing hundreds of square miles worth of garbage from a super-polluted swath of the North Pacific.
The garbage can be found in the North Pacific Gyre, one of the most remote ecosystems on Earth, and while many seem intent on ignoring the problem, Woodring has refused to do so. Two years ago, he founded Project Kaisei, a Sausalito, CA-based nonprofit, to raise awareness of the mess and find ways to clean it up.
Woodring is optimistic that Project Kaisei will be able to do precisely that … though he also knows it won’t be easy.
As he explained to Unger, once one arrives at the “plastic vortex,” the trash is so ubiquitous that it “looks like stars in the sky, but instead of looking up, you’re looking down in bright blue water, and it’s everywhere.”
And, yes, by “everywhere,” he truly means “everywhere.” On a recent expedition, Project Kaisei took 250 water samples from an area covering 3,500 square miles of ocean. Plastic was found in every single sample.
So, how, exactly does Woodring intend to conquer this massive problem?
That was one of the questions we asked when we caught up with him at the 2010 Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Seoul. To hear how Woodring answered, and find out more about Project Kaisei, check out our video interview here.