A 2000-foot-long U-shaped plastic trap designed to collect trash and debris littering the Pacific Ocean was deployed this weekend in an attempt to collect up to 150,000 pounds of plastic during the trash collection device's first year at sea.
The project came about thanks to $20 million in funding from the Ocean Cleanup group, an organization founded by Boyan Slat. The 24-year-old Netherlands man says he became passionate about cleaning up the ocean after going scuba diving when he was 16 in the Mediterranean Sea and saw more plastic bags than fish.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is a large gyre of trash and plastic debris, about twice the size of Texas, located between California and Hawaii and is estimated to contain up to 87,000 tons of plastic.
Over the next few days, the boom will be towed to a site where it will go through some final testing. Once completed,. the boom will be brought to the garbage patch, where it will begin its mission of cleaning up the garbage patch.
The cleanup system is fairly simple. Video posted to the company's page shows the boom being detached from the towing vessel. At that point, currents and winds are expected to pull the boom into a U-shape that will trap plastic much "like Pac-Man," the foundation says on its website.
The captured plastic is eventually taken back to land, sorted and recycled.
An impenetrable skirt hangs nearly ten feet below the craft to help catch smaller pieces of plastic. Marine life will be able to pass safely underneath the net and won't get caught up as the net is intended to act like an artificial coastline.
The group's goal is to clean up at least half of the garbage patch within the next few years. To do that, they'll need several more of these booms.
The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised more than $35 million in donations to fund the project, said they hope to deploy up to 60-plastic collecting booms by 2020.
"One of our goals is to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years," Slat told NBC News.
The booms are designed to survive for at least 20 years under harsh weather conditions and constant wear and tear. By that time they hope to have collected up to 90 percent of the trash, Slat added.