ALAMEDA, Calif. (KTVU) - After countless of hours of engineering, and years of testing, the massive cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean is about to begin.
The trash field comprised of tens of thousands of plastic is estimated at twice the size of Texas. It’s floating in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between California and Hawaii.
"We saw toilet seats. A lot of packaging. A lot of bottles, bags and toys," said Boyan Slat, CEO of a Dutch company called The Ocean Cleanup.
Slat, who is only 23 years old, plans to launch the world's first ocean cleanup system this summer from Alameda.
Plastic can be deadly to fish and wildlife and can be dangerous to humans if it gets into the food chain.
"Instead of going after the plastic what we propose to do is let the plastic come to us. So we built these u-shaped floating barriers to act as a funnel," said Slat.
Here's how it works:
Large screens will hang from dozens of black floating tubes. Each of them is 2,000 feet long. They are being assembled at the former Alameda Naval Air Station.
Boats will soon tow the devices some 2,500 miles out to sea towards Hawaii and drop them in the ocean. Currents are expected to carry the plastic debris to the screens and collect there.
"Every two months a boat would come – a garbage truck of the ocean – and will put a net around the plastic, close the top of the net and lift it on to the boat," said Slat.
The company believes it can eventually capture 90 percent of the plastic this way.
Slat says he got the idea when he was 16 years old scuba diving in Greece.
"I saw more plastic than fish around me. And I thought, ‘why can't this be cleaned up?’” Slat said. “I started looking into it as a high school science project.”
Slat says no fish or wildlife should be harmed by this process, because there are no nets. He says he is confident this plan can work.
"We've done many prototypes. We've done all the calculations. All of those things are on green light right now," he said.
But this is no quick fix.
The company expects to remove half the debris in five years and the majority of the rest will take 20 years.