In July, The Ocean Cleanup, which has been developing a system to help clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, took its first large-scale cleanup system, called System 002, or Jenny, to the Pacific. They conducted a series of tests over the course of 12 weeks, each one consisting of the system being taken offshore to safely gather plastic from the ocean. The organization completed its final test of the system last week, and on Thursday, The Ocean Cleanup tweeted it had gathered 9,000 kilograms — more than 19,841 pounds — of debris.
“Holy mother of god,” Boyan Slat, the founder of Ocean Cleanup, tweeted after the organization recovered its massive trash haul on October 8. “It all worked!!! Massive load.” Slat said that 10 years ago, when he first learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, everyone told him “there was no hope of ever cleaning it up.” “They were right then; no method existed to do it,” he tweeted. “Proud (and relieved!) to say that now there is.”
The Ocean Cleanup says the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the largest marine debris patches in the world. In 2018, research estimated that there are at least 79,000 tons of plastic inside a 1.6 million-square-kilometer area. Microplastics — plastic materials smaller than 5 centimeters — make up roughly 8% of the mass, but 94% of the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of debris floating in the area, researchers found.