Operation ocean

In a world that is producing more than 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, predictions are that by 2050 we’ll have more plastic by weight in our oceans than fish. But this dire forecast is also leading to action.  Ocean Unite, established in 2014 by Sir Richard Branson, is bringing together a diverse group of conservationists, business leaders, philanthropies, and influential people whose collective mission is to Unify, Amplify and Engage key voices at the moment that matter the most for the oceans.

A key focus for Ocean Unite is igniting positive change to protect at least 30% of the Ocean by 2030, with particular attention to the iconic Blue Hole in Belize. Taking a trip later this year to this very location, Sir Richard is teaming up with Aquatica Submarines on a journey to the ocean floor, raising awareness of the need to protect the ocean, as well as undertaking some fascinating technological experiments. 

There are also many more prominent scientific minds now turning their attention to removing rubbish from the world’s waterways, here are just a few effective rubbish removal ideas helping our oceans:


Invented by two Aussie surfers, the Seabin  is a floating rubbish bin located at marinas and commercial ports. It moves with the tide to collect floating rubbish. The opening sits right at the surface and draws in rubbish that is then collected in a permeable bag. The pump technology also had the potential to collect oils, pollutants, and microplastics floating on the water’s surface.

Ocean Cleanup Project

Dutch wunderkind Boyan Slat founded this project in 2013 at the age of 18. Focusing on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California, Ocean Cleanup has developed a passive system that concentrates waste and lets ocean forces bring the plastic to kilometres-long floating pipes.

Set to launch later this year, Ocean Cleanup estimates it will take half of the plastic in the patch back to shore for recycling in five years.  

Mr Trash Wheel

Environmental warrior, tourist attraction and social media personality, rubbish-collecting vessel “Mr Trash Wheel” has recently celebrated its fourth anniversary of cleaning the waters around the city of Baltimore in the United States.

Using solar power, the water wheel lifts garbage and debris from the water and deposits it into a collection barge for disposal. In its short life, Mr Trash Wheel has collected almost 700,000 kilograms of rubbish, including more than 520,000 plastic bags, 630,000 plastic bottles, 730,000 polystyrene containers, and 930,000 cigarette butts. If laid out in a row, the cigarette butts would extend more than 112 kilometres.

Plastic-eating enzymes

In 2016, Japanese scientists discovered a bacterium that naturally digests the plastic used in many common water bottles and containers. The bacterium has since been modified to make it even better at breaking down plastic. In April this year, scientists tweaked the enzyme produced  by the bacterium to make it even more effective.

Learn more about Virgin’s Ocean Unite

Ocean Unite continues to ramp up their work to unify and amplify key Ocean messages, and engage decision-makers through the Ocean Unite Network, to work towards protecting 30% of the Ocean by 2030. You can take action by:

  1. Find out more by reading the Ocean Unite's mission
  2. Help protect the future of our oceans, donate to Ocean Unite 
  3. Watch the following video on why the Ocean is Everybody’s Business: