Published: Friday, 20 November 2015

After a nine-month journey, Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) arrived in Bordeaux, France, concluding an unprecedented human and scientific adventure that began in March taking the team to 17 locations across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

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(Photo: Peter Charaf/Race for Water 2015)

Initiated by the Race for Water foundation, the R4WO team studied levels of plastic pollution in the water and raised awareness of the global issue at each of the 11 scientific stopovers and nine outreach stopovers, involving 13 countries.

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 with the return to its homeport.

On arrival in Bordeaux, the team will assess nine months 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 Arrives In Home Port

(Photo: Peter Charaf/Race for Water 2015)

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 US are studying images taken by the SenseFly drone eBee. Results are expected in 2016.

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, social and scientific adventure (notably with the University of Bordeaux) and our arrival back in Bordeaux is an emotional experience,” says Race for Water Foundation President and Expedition Leader Marco Simeoni. “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 essential to continue the fight against plastic pollution in the oceans.” 

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(Photo: James Dart/Race for Water 2015)

“Race for Water Odyssey is just the beginning of a long-term project,” continued Simeoni. “It is a springboard that has enabled us to further define how to progress towards solutions. Following the Odyssey, our conclusions are clear: plastic pollution affects all regions of the world, it is everywhere. We must be proactive and prevent plastic from getting into our waterways by promoting solutions that give waste value. We will be launching pilot projects that transform waste into energy from 2016 on.”