Dutch foundation The Ocean Cleanup has raised USD $21.7 million to initiate large-scale trials of its cleanup technology in the Pacific Ocean later this year.
The technology, which has been developed over the last four years, is a passive plastic capturing device which uses ocean currents to catch and concentrate the plastic.
This reduces the theoretical cleanup time of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch from milennia to years.
Representing the most important milestone on the road to the full-scale cleanup for the world’s oceans, Founder and chief executive of The Ocean Cleanup said that due to the support of the project’s funders, they are closer to returning the first batch of plastic to shore.
“Our mission is to rid the world’s oceans of plastic, and this support is a major leap forward towards achieving this goal,” he said.
An international study showed that in 2010, 8 billion tonnes of plastic entered the ocean and indicated that 192 nations produced a total of 275 million tonnes of plastic waste.
As plastics are hard to break down, some items, such as a dense monofilament fishing line could last for up to 600 years.
Although a plastic bag could last for up to a month, a lot of negative environmental impact could have occurred before then.
Other microplastic fragments can come from plastic packaging such as cups, bottles and bags, as well as fragments of fishing gear.
Marine animals face the most critical consequences of waste in the oceans, research showing that around 5,000 and 15,000 sea turtles are entangled in items like discarded fishing gear.
Around 90 percent of seabirds ingest plastic causing gut blockages or perforation of the intestines.
The newest technology of The Ocean Cleanup was significantly funded by San Francisco based philanthropists Marc and Lynne Benioff and an anonymous donor.
“With Boyan’s innovative leadership, I believe The Ocean Cleanup will have an incredibly positive impact on the future of our oceans,” said Mr Benioff.
The Ocean Cleanup aims to launch its first experimental cleanup system in the Pacific waters by late 2017.
Learn more about The Ocean Cleanup.