The Ocean Cleanup Project is continuing to zero in on its primary target, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, today announcing it has leased space at a former naval station to begin assembling its first giant trash-collecting booms. Its team will start putting them together at the San Francisco Bay site, which will double as a basecamp for a launch that has been years in the making.

Dreamt up by one-time aerospace engineering student Boyan Slat, the Ocean Cleanup Project first emerged as an ambitious design concept in 2013. The team has since gone on to raise millions in funding, carried out aerial surveys of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and put a prototype to the test in the Netherlands.

The system has undergone numerous redesigns since its inception, but the general idea is to let natural currents push plastic waste into passive, floating arms, which would be strategically located to gather maximum ocean trash. The Ocean Cleanup Project says marine life would be able to harmlessly pass beneath these floating arms.

While undoubtedly well-intentioned, Slat's project has attracted some criticism, with scientific opinion ranging from the perspective that this is a noble effort to clean up the ocean, to it likely to have a negligible impact at most, to it potentially harming ocean life by trapping creatures in its huge arms. For its part, the Ocean Cleanup Project has previously said it is committed to carrying out environmental impact studies at every stage of the roll-out.

In any case, the project is continuing to gather steam. Today Slat and his team announced that they have signed a lease agreement for a space at the former Alameda Naval Air Station in the San Francisco Bay, which it will use to start putting together the cleanup system next month. Once complete, the 600-meter-long (2,000 ft) contraption will be lowered into the bay so the team can carry out some final in-water tests. It then plans to tow Cleanup System #1 out into the Pacific midway through 2018.

"Next to Alameda's major historical military significance, it was here that the famous car chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded was filmed, and it was home to some of the best experiments of my favorite childhood TV show, MythBusters," says Slat. "We're honored to be allowed to use this site as the assembly yard for the world's first ocean cleanup system. Hopefully, we will make some history here as well."

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