Mr Beast's ocean plastics campaign: will we sea any real impact?

There's a deep problem with this YouTuber's ocean cleanup effort...

Cc Lee
28th November 2021
YouTuber Mr Beast picking up a water bottle as part of his cleanup efforts on a beach, to raise awareness of his Team Seas project. Image source: YouTube
Team Seas Project, a YouTuber's attempt to raise £30million in order to clean the oceans, plans to remove 30 million pounds of trash from beaches and use new technologies to clean the top layer of the seas directly.

On the surface, this would perhaps appear like a step in the right direction – that Mr Beast (23, YouTuber) and Mark Rober (41, former NASA employee turned YouTuber) have set out with a pretty impressive goal. Right?

But, from a wider perspective, their efforts seem minimal.

Every year over eight million metric tons of plastic goes into the oceans. How much difference could Team Seas' three million pounds over three years removal target really make? And will this sustain a long-term impact? The difference between the two – in pounds - is roughly 17,633,981,000...

YouTubere Mr Beast and Mark Rober clean a beach and then discuss their Team Seas plan

Which means that once they’ve reached their goal there will still be around 7,986,000 metric tons of plastic in the ocean from this year alone. Considering the amount of money people are donating, which could go elsewhere, this could actually have a negative impact in the long term.

Team Seas are collaborating with the non-profit organisation The Ocean Cleanup. They have a new machine that cleans up the surface of the ocean, getting ‘rid of plastic’. The money raised will be concentrated on paying for these machines (as well as funding the beach clean ups).

However, the money funding the ocean clean-up could be used more critically; funding better infrastructures for waste disposal – especially in developing countries (where the clean up is based). Additionally, not all plastic is floating on the surface of the oceans and more is below the depths that are being collected. Which, of course, will damage ecosystems and affect sea life.

Something that'd be more beneficial than taking a minimal amount of plastics out of the ocean would be to lobby government

Team Seas have raised an incredible amount of money, and are raising awareness about plastic being in the ocean. But it’s problematic as they aren’t trying to directly stop the source of the issue i.e., the exponential increase of manufacturing and consumption of single use plastics, along with the lack of proper investments to recycle the plastic.

Moreover, the mass population could think that donating money to a small clean up of a handful of beaches is ‘doing their part' and contributing to the wider issue, which could prevent genuine political action.

Something that’d be more beneficial than taking a minimal amount of plastics out of the ocean would be to lobby government, for them to make systemic changes to prevent more virgin single use plastics from being manufactured.

YouTuber with a PhD in climate physics criticises the Team Seas project, among many other critics of the project online

Plus, when they clean the beaches and the oceans - how can we trust that the plastics won’t actually end up back in the ocean?

I don’t think the Team Seas project is consequential in the fight against plastics. If they emphasised the fact that this clean up needs to happen alongside lobbying tactics then this could be successful, however, as they haven’t – the campaign is rendered ineffective.

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