Cleaning up ourĀ oceans just got one step closer to reality as The Ocean Cleanup just launched the first prototype of a device that will capture floating plastic pollution. After winning the prestigious Katerva Award last month, the project is now starting a year-long test partially funded by the Dutch government. The prototype boom will be towed to 12 and a half miles out in the North Sea today. At 328 feet long, the device is the “first ocean cleanup system ever tested at sea.”

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The prototype, which collects trash passively, is made of vulcanized rubber and is powered by ocean currents. Sensors will monitor the boom during the year. Data garnered will assist engineers as they develop a system more resistant to wind and waves.

Related: Plastic-scooping Ocean Cleanup project wins prestigious Katerva Award

Dutch Environment Minister Sharon Dijksma said in a press release, “The Ocean Cleanup is an inspiring example of how we can tackle the growing problem of ocean pollution. I hope that with the help of the Dutch government, Boyan’s prototype will turn out to be the successful solution for cleaning up the mid-ocean gyres. This is crucial to prevent permanent damange to the environment and marine life, due to the degradation and fragmentation of plastic waste materials.”

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The purpose of the test is not necessarily to collect garbage, but to see how the system handles North Sea storms, often more relentless than those out in the Pacific Ocean, where The Ocean Cleanup ultimately hopes to deploy their system. But as a side bonus, some plastic might be scooped up by the prototype.

Slat calculated there’s a 30 percent chance the prototype could break during the test, but said whether it breaks or stays intact the test will still be beneficial. He said, “This is a historic day on the path toward clean oceans. A successful outcome of this test should put us on track to deploy the first operational pilot system in late 2017.”

+ The Ocean Cleanup

Via The Guardian

Images courtesy of The Ocean Cleanup