A bid to clear the Pacific of its plastic debris has moved a step closer with the launch of the biggest prototype clean-up boom yet by the Dutch environment minister at a port in The Hague.
On Thursday the 100 metre-long barrier will be towed 12 miles (20km) out to sea for a year of sensor-monitored tests, before being scaled up for real-life trials off the Japanese coast at the end of next year.
The Dutch environment minister, Sharon Dijksma, told the Guardian that her government, which part-funded the test, was fully backing the project, which will eventually cost about £230m (€300m).
“We can use our political pressure with other governments, businesses and the international institutions to fund this on an even bigger scale,” she said. “We are used to fronting public-private [partnerships] like this. It is not new for us. When it is a success, philanthropists will be standing in line asking to join us.”
The snake-like ocean barrier is made out of vulcanised rubber and works by harnessing sea currents to passively funnel floating rubbish – often just millimetres wide – into a cone.