Nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup shows off its horrifying plastic trash haul

There's a lot of junk in the Pacific Ocean, and one organization dedicated to cleaning it up tells us what it plans to do with all that garbage.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The Ocean Cleanup is hoping to clear the trash from the oceans.

The Ocean Cleanup

The problem is clear: The world's oceans are clogged with plastic debris that threatens ecosystems and wildlife. The Ocean Cleanup is testing new ways to collect and remove plastic from the ocean, and it showed off its junk haul in a livestream from Vancouver on Thursday.

The nonprofit organization displayed a collection of 60 large bags full of plastic culled by its floating trash-collection system from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The haul represents the results of the experimental Mission One, The Ocean Cleanup's first major collection effort.

"It's complete garbage," said founder Boyan Slat during the livestream. Slat laid out the plans for the plastic, which will involve recycling it into "beautiful, sustainable products." Proceeds from sales of these items will go into continuing the efforts of The Ocean Cleanup. Details on the products will be released later.

A ship gathers the junk collected in the ocean and workers sort, dry, weigh and tag the debris.

The Ocean Cleanup system hit some snags during its first deployment. At one point, plastic was escaping from the trap, but the group made adjustments to fix the problem. Some scientists have raised concerns about the system accidentally catching sea life along with plastic and debris. 

Today's update gave the public a look at what The Ocean Cleanup has been up to. Slat has an ambitious goal of cleaning up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years, but his group would need to deploy a fleet of debris-catching devices to do this. 

A second generation of the system is now under development, but we can start looking for products made from the Garbage Patch in late 2020. We'll just have to make sure those new items don't end up in the water.

Watch this: Boyan Slat of The Ocean Cleanup talks up his latest invention, The Interceptor

Originally published Dec. 12, 12:29 p.m. PT.