More than one billion tonnes of rubbish end up in our oceans every year, and the majority of this becomes concentrated in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world's largest zone of ocean plastics.
But new technologies developed by The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch not-for-profit organisation, has launched the world’s first cleanup mission this month.
It's aim is to remove the globe’s oceans of plastic.
Departing from San Francisco Bay last week, the cleanup system (System 001) will journey to the GPGP located halfway between Hawaii and California.
The system acts like a giant Pac-Man, skimming rubbish from the ocean's surface.
Trying to remove plastic debris with vessels and nets would take thousands of years and billions of dollars to complete, instead the organisation plan to deploy a fleet of long floating barriers that act like an artificial coastline, thus enabling the winds and waves to catch the plastic.
The organisation expects the first plastic and rubbish will be collected and returned to land within six months after deployment, marking the first time that free floating plastic will successfully have been collected at sea.
Once the plastic has been collected, the next stage of the plan includes recycling the material into products, using the proceeds to further fund the cleanup operations.
The full scale deployment aims to clean up to 50 per cent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years.
The system is equipped with solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras and navigation lights to communicate the position of System 001 to passing marine traffic, and enable extensive monitoring of the system and the environment.
The main objective of the clean up system is to prove the technology, and of course, commence the cleanup.
The secondary goal is to collect performance data to improve the design for future deployments.
Founder of The Ocean Cleanup Boyan Slat said the launch was a milestone after years of developing the design and technology that is the first of its kind.
“This makes me confident that, if we manage to make the technology work, the cleanup will happen," Slat said at the launch.
“The real celebration will come once the first plastic returns to shore. For 60 years, mankind has been putting plastic into the oceans; from that day onwards, we’re taking it back out again.”
Subject to funding, the organisation hope to grow a fleet of 60 systems dedicated to cleaning the GPGP over the next two years.
The Organisation estimates that the full fleet can remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage patch within the next five years.