An ambitious project to clean up the 88,000 tons of plastic floating in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has begun. On Sunday, the Ocean Cleanup Project started towing its “Ocean Cleanup System 001” from San Francisco to a trial site some 240 nautical miles (260 miles) away. Once it arrives, the wind and waves will push System 001 into a U-shape and it will slowly drift along on its own. A 10-foot long skirt hanging below will collect pieces of plastic as small as a millimeter in size, and smaller boats will later scoop them up and take them to shore for recycling.
During the two week trial, the system will be “extensively monitored” to make sure it does the job while not harming plankton and other critical marine life. “We want to catch plastic, not fish,” Joost Dubois from The Ocean Cleanup told CNN. “We’re trying to solve an environmental problem so we need to make sure we don’t create a bigger problem in its place.”