recently The Ocean Cleanup project basically uses a giant trap to catch plastic trash, then ships it back to shore. It first successfully retrieved plastic pollution from the ocean in October of last year, during a test run. If you've been watching the news lately, you might have seen that the project hit a snafu.
The issues it ran into recently are twofold, according to an article from NPR. They are 1.) some plastic escapes the trap and 2.) a 60' section broke off, likely due to normal wear and tear. The second point is being addressed: the system is being repaired. Studies are being conducted to be more sure of the cause of the break. As to the first point, they may address that by adjusting the speed of the trap.
A particularly cool feature of Ocean Cleanup's site is their System 001 timeline, which shows system updates from procurement to current events. I like the timeline because it makes it easier to visualize their progress over time. The updates are also nice. I came away from the site feeling really hopeful about the future.
The project isn't without it's critics or detractors. It's possible that only a small percentage of the plastic we dump in the ocean actually ends up snatchable by this method. There are also some folks that think the resources this commands could be better spent elsewhere. At least one oceanographer has expressed concern that the device might attract ocean life.
My thoughts on the whole thing: Picking up any ocean junk is better than picking up none. Nothing is going to be 100% effective, and every bit counts. The inventor, Boyan Slat, wants to eventually recycle what gets brought back, which is also good. I really want to see this project work.