The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch nonprofit dedicated to eliminating plastic pollution in the oceans, recently announced its first success. After years of trials that left its engineers scratching their heads over design challenges, the nonprofit’s newest prototype device has consistently collected plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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Following years of repeat returns to the drawing board, The Ocean Cleanup has finally experienced its first success of consistently capturing and collecting plastic, thanks to the self-contained System 001/B prototype. As an added bonus, not only was the prototype able to collect large, visible items but also microplastics as small as one millimeter.

Related: Trash-collecting device returns to Great Pacific Garbage Patch

“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,” said founder and CEO Boyan Slat. “Our team has remained steadfast in its determination to solve immense technical challenges to arrive at this point. Though we still have much more work to do, I am eternally grateful for the team’s commitment and dedication to the mission and look forward to continuing to the next phase of development.”

close-up of The Ocean Cleanup barrier device collecting trash in the ocean

The patch, located in the waters between Hawaii and California, is infamous as the area with the largest accumulation of plastic debris. As a trash vortex, its circular motion draws litter into itself, trapping all the junk into a concentrated mass. The hazards are compounded by the leaching out of noxious chemicals linked to health problems. Marine life is also harmed, with numerous reports of disruptions in feeding and migrating patterns, ultimately threatening species’ survival and reproductive success.

The need to remove the plastic waste polluting the Pacific Ocean inspired Slat to establish The Ocean Cleanup in 2012. The nonprofit’s engineers have since been striving to develop a device to rid the ocean of the garbage. The various device prototypes employ a passive system that moves with the currents while catching plastic refuse.

The nonprofit aspires to develop more prototypes in hopes of deploying a future fleet of ocean debris-collecting systems. The collected plastic will, in turn, be recycled onshore and sold to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. The recycling revenue will be reinvested into the nonprofit’s expansion plans for further ocean waste management and sanitation.

+ The Ocean Cleanup

Images via The Ocean Cleanup