A new device successfully hauled 20,000 pounds of trash out of the Pacific Ocean last week. This technology could potentially help clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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People on a ship removing plastic from a net.

The successful experiment has been a long time coming. Boyan Slat declared that he had a plan for ridding the oceans of plastic when he was 18. Now, the Dutch inventor is 27 and the founder of Ocean Cleanup. The nonprofit has set a formidable goal: eliminate 90% of the plastic floating in the ocean by 2040.

Related: The Ocean Cleanup launches sunglasses made from ocean plastic

In 2018, Slat and his nonprofit launched its first device to catch plastic. Unfortunately, it broke on the job. The 2019 model was a little better, but still not up to the task. Then last summer, Ocean Cleanup set out a huge, U-shaped floating barrier that directs trash into a long floating net. The team nicknamed the device Jenny. Every few weeks, the net fills with plastic, a crew hauls it out and empties it into a garbage vessel, then reattaches it to collect more junk. The plastic gets taken ashore, where it’s recycled.

One “Jenny” can hold more than 10,000 kilograms of plastic. Slat thinks that 10 Jennys could eliminate half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years.

But not everybody is convinced. Especially when they factor in the cost of fueling boats to remove the plastic. “Once plastic has gotten into the open ocean, it becomes very expensive and fossil-fuel intensive to get it back out again,” said Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the think tank Center for American Progress, as reported by Reuters.

Slat’s been at it almost 10 years and hasn’t lost heart. On Saturday, he tweeted, “Lots of things still to iron out. But one thing we now know: deploy a small fleet of these systems, and one *can* clean it up.”

Via Business Insider

Images via The Ocean Cleanup