Dutch non-profit organisation The Ocean Cleanup has launched its first system at the San Francisco Bay, US, to extract plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The full-scale cleanup system dubbed System 001 will first move to 240 nautical miles offshore for a two-week trial and will carry out its final journey to a location of 1,200 nautical miles offshore.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to contain 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and covers an area twice the size of Texas.

The cleanup system is being towed from San Francisco Bay by the Maersk Launcher vessel, which has been provided by AP Moller-Maersk and the vessel’s current charter holder DeepGreen.

Following the delivery of System 001 to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Maersk Launcher will serve as an observation platform for several weeks.

System 001 is equipped with a 600m-long U-shaped floating barrier with a 3m skirt attached below.

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It also features solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras and navigation lights to provide information on its position to passing marine traffic.

To be propelled by wind and waves, the system will passively catch and collect plastic debris in front of it.

“Today’s launch is an important milestone, but the real celebration will come once the first plastic returns to shore.”

The shape of the system, which travels slightly faster than the plastic, will allow the funnelling of debris to its centre.

The Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat said: “Today’s launch is an important milestone, but the real celebration will come once the first plastic returns to shore.”

The company plans to recycle the collected plastics to manufacture saleable products, and proceeds will be used to help fund the cleanup operations.

The Ocean Cleanup is also expected to collect performance data from System 001 to improve its design for future deployments.

Depending upon the success of System 001 and availability of funds, The Ocean Cleanup intends to increase its fleet to around 60 systems, which will be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over the next two years.