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An ocean cleanup device has successfully collected plastic and retained it for the first time.
The free-floating boom was designed by a group of Dutch scientists in order to try and clear up the floating debris in the Pacific Ocean, which collectively is three times the size of France.
Booms in previous trials have fallen apart and not collected the plastic. But after overcoming a series of technical issues, the 600 metre-long (2,000ft) device has finally managed to take in a haul of rubbish from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
According to reports, between 600,000 and 800,000 metric tonnes of fishing equipment is lost or abandoned every year, while another eight million tonnes of plastic waste are washed into the sea from beaches.
The creator of the Ocean Cleanup project, Boyan Slat, shared the major breakthrough on Twitter.
Posting a photograph of the debris, Slat wrote: "Our ocean cleanup system is now finally catching plastic, from one-ton ghost nets to tiny microplastics! Also, anyone missing a wheel?"
Speaking to media at a press conference in Rotterdam about the device, Slat said his aim was to overcome the sheer cost of using a trawler to collect the plastics from the world's waters.
He said: "We are now catching plastics ... After beginning this journey seven years ago, this first year of testing in the unforgivable environment of the high seas strongly indicates that our vision is attainable and that the beginning of our mission to rid the ocean of plastic garbage, which has accumulated for decades, is within our sights.
"We now have a self-contained system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is using the natural forces of the ocean to passively catch and concentrate plastics ... This now gives us sufficient confidence in the general concept to keep going on this project."
The rubbish collected by the tool up until now will be brought to shore in December to be recycled.
Slat and his team now believe it cold open up other business opportunities, with people willing to pay top dollar for items made out of plastic reclaimed from the ocean.
He continued: "In a few years' time when we have the full-scale fleet out there, I think it should be possible to cover the operational cost of the cleanup operation using the plastic harvested."
The group is now looking to upgrade the current design to allow it to store debris for up to a year before it has to be removed from the water.
Featured Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup
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