CURIOUS onlookers flocked on to the SV Moana at Newcastle Harbour on Australia Day to take a look at cutting-edge technology that converts plastic waste to oil.
The machine ran from 10am until late afternoon, producing a litre of oil every three hours.
Adrian Midwood, of eco-group Ocean Ambassadors, and Tim Silverwood of beach clean-up initiative Take 3 demonstrated the Japanese "Blest" technology.
The pair are on a sailing tour from Brisbane to Sydney in their 11.5-metre catamaran, aiming to educate communities about ocean waste and the solutions available.
"Doesn't it produce any toxic chemicals?" was possibly the most common concern for viewers, but Mr Midwood said the process emitted the equivalent of "three people breathing in a room".
"Nothing dangerous is produced in the conversion," he said.
"A very small amount of biochar is produced, but it can be used for many agricultural purposes."
Mr Silverwood said the tour had been successful so far.
"It's been incredible to see that every community cares, whether they're trying to get their town plastic-free, to improve their waste-management systems or just become more active in cleaning up," he said.
The pair avoided talking at length about the problem of ocean waste and concentrated, rather, on the solutions.
"It's so easy to become overwhelmed. It's easy to think that, considering the scale of the problem, your actions are insignificant," Mr Silverwood said.
"When you think about Take 3, for example, knowing that even that one bottle cap or bag isn't going to exist in the ocean forever - won't be killing a bird or a turtle - a simple action can have a massive benefit."
Tuesday will be Newcastle's opportunity to help the duo make a difference.
Mr Midwood and Mr Silverstone will meet willing members of the community at Nobbys Beach Kiosk at 9am and collect rubbish from the shore until 11am.
A new documentary outlining the issues facing ocean health will be screened in Newcastle Museum from 6.30pm. Entry is free.
Mr Midwood said there were plenty of challenges, but it was important not to turn a blind eye.
"There are lots of things Australia needs to do to improve its waste-management scheme. The biggest one right now is the Container Deposit Scheme. We've got to follow South Australia's lead and offer 10¢ for every beverage container returned," he said.
"In Australia, we use 13 billion beverage containers and about 8 billion are sent to landfill."