For the first time in history, a huge underwater device made by conservationists to clean waste from the sea has now effectively gathered garbage from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The machine, created by 25-year-old Dutch inventor and engineer Boyan Slat, consists of a huge line of cork floats holding a huge skirt that traps the garbage below.

Ocean Cleanup recently announced that the system could collect and hold garbage from visible plastic debris to abandoned fishing equipment, also known as “ghost nets “— as well as small microplastics as tiny as 1 millimeter.

Released from Vancouver in June 2019, the Ocean Cleanup Project’s high-tech system 001/B is equipped with a variety of devices, such as sensors, cameras, solar-powered lights and satellite antennas, that allow the Ocean Cleanup to keep track of it using GPS and use a dedicated support ship to gather trapped plastic every few months before it returns to dry land.

Unit 001/B simulates a coastline while also using ocean movements to collect fragments of plastic waste that are likely to be floating around in the patch.

Ocean life can swim around the giant boom safely. According to marine biologists who have been monitoring the system, no adverse environmental impact has been caused by the deployment of the system.

Scientists and conservationists have increasingly sounded the alarm on contaminants and microplastics which threaten the planet’s waters and water supplies by releasing carcinogenic toxins and chemicals into the marine environment. Meanwhile, plastic containers and garbage used by fishers are capturing, confining, and destroying marine wildlife such as fish and birds.

Plastic pollution has reached such a large proportion that an approximate 100 million tons of it can now be contained in the seas, as stated by the United Nations, which are destroying industries such as tourism and fishing, while at the same time embedding itself at every stage of the food chain. Between 80% and 90% of the plastic waste in the ocean tends to come from land-based sources. According to a study released at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, plastic waste in the seas is expected to exceed all fish by 2050.

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