Plastic pollution in oceans, also known as marine debris, is a growing problem at local and global scales. Anthropogenic marine debris poses a serious threat to many marine species, both through physical harm such as ingestion or entanglement and by carrying toxins and pathogens. This debris accumulates in oceanic gyres, concentrating these effects in some specific areas. In addition, marine debris may have devastating impacts on tourism and fishing-based economies, especially where ocean currents direct this debris. Recently, a nonprofit organization called The Ocean Cleanup proposed the first large-scale in situ marine debris removal project. The Ocean Cleanup is a project attempting to use large, floating, semi-fixed screens to harness ocean currents and accumulate debris, where it can be efficiently collected and disposed of or recycled. The project currently is working on implementing itself in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” in the North Pacific Gyre. We examine this project case, as it is the first organization attempting to clean up marine debris at this scale. Understanding the potential efficacy and limitations of The Ocean Cleanup Project as a case study can give critical insights into how other projects could be created in the future to address marine plastic pollution worldwide. Using SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to assess a marine debris cleanup can inform both a nuanced evaluation of the specific case as well as provide a means to explore marine debris as a complex, global environmental problem.

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