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Finish Line for the Race for Water Odyssey

 

After a exceptionnal journey, the Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) returned to Bordeaux, France , last week concluding an unprecedented human and scientific adventure which took the team to 17 locations, ranging from very remote islands to important international cities across the world. At each stopover, the R4WO team studied levels of plastic pollution in the water and raised awareness of the global issue. The findings are dramatic: plastic pollution is ubiquitous.

Macroplastics – Easter Island (Race for Water 2015 / Peter Charaf)

After a nine-month journey, the Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) returned to Bordeaux, France on the 18 November, concluding an unprecedented human and scientific adventure that began on 15 March and which took the team to 17 locations across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. At each stopover, the R4WO team studied levels of plastic pollution in the water and raised awareness of the global issue. Our findings are dramatic: plastic pollution is everywhere.

Macroplastics soiling a beach - Koror (Race for Water 2015 / Peter Charaf)
Macroplastics soiling a beach – Koror (Race for Water 2015 / Peter Charaf)

After more than 32,000 nautical miles across three oceans and a painful ordeal when the project’s flagship trimaran capsized, the environmental expedition concluded its journey today with its return to its home port. On arrival in Bordeaux, the team will assess nine-month worth of data collected and the personalities and general public that the project reached with its awareness raising programme and its call to action. Race for Water Odyssey used a standard protocol based on that of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to sample the plastic pollution on 30 beaches located in five major waste accumulation zones. The project’s various partner institutions, including the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland), the University of Bordeaux (France) and the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) are currently analysing the collected samples. Duke University and Oregon State in the USA are studying images taken by the senseFly drone, eBee. Results are expected in 2016.

Preliminary results and alarming testimonials

Preliminary results of the Race for Water Odyssey, microplastics concentration (Race for Water 2015 / Peter Charaf)
Preliminary results of the Race for Water Odyssey, microplastics concentration (Race for Water 2015 / Peter Charaf)

The first findings, reported in September, are clear and alarming. Plastic is everywhere. And it is present in such large quantities that an effective ocean clean-up is unrealistic.

This expedition has been a great human and scientific adventure and our arrival back in Bordeaux is an emotional experience. The last nine months have been challenging at times, but all the data and knowledge acquired and the enriching encounters that we have experienced are priceless,” said Marco Simeoni, expedition leader and president of the Race for Water Foundation.

Sorting microplastics (Race for Water 2015 / Peter Charaf)
Sorting microplastics (Race for Water 2015 / Peter Charaf)

Race for Water Odyssey is just the beginning. It is a springboard that has enabled us to further define what can be done to counter pollution. Following the Odyssey, our conclusions are clear: we must be proactive and prevent plastic from getting into our waterways by making plastic waste attractive. We will be launching pilot projects that transform waste into energy in 2016,” he added.


Race for Water Odyssey: a springboard for the solutions of tomorrow

The Race for Water Foundation plans to use the expedition’s findings as a basis for its fight against plastic pollution, starting with a presence at COP21 with its new Race for Water flagship, the largest solar-powered catamaran in the world. The Foundation will present its findings and its solutions and launch the 2016 programme, based on pilot projects that give value to plastic waste, on the 26 November.