Ambitious effort to clean up Great Pacific Garbage Patch faces major setback

Ocean Cleanup's £20m garbage filter breaks in two

Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Ambitious effort to clean up Texas-sized mass of plastic faces major setback

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch covers an area twice the size of Texas, consisting of discarded plastics, fishing nets, bottle tops, containers, and other junk.

Back in September, Slat and his team at the non-profit organization he founded, the Ocean Cleanup Project, watched as his 2,000-foot-long invention left San Francisco for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest collection of ocean plastics in the world located between California and Hawaii.

The system has been collecting more than just plastic.

The optimist can argue it's better to learn these things in the early stages than it is for breakdowns later, but the latest speed bump now has the entire project being towed 12,000 nautical miles back to port.

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A setback in the effort to clean up the pacific ocean.

The 2,000-foot long boom is created to capture marine plastic via 10-foot deep screens, with bulkheads for storage.

The device is 2,000 feet long with a 10-foot skirt that hangs below it, under the water.

Hopefully, no one is keeping score because if they were it would be Great Pacific Garbage Patch: 2, Wilson: 0.

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During a routine inspection on December 29, crew members discovered that a 60-foot end section of one of the booms that scoops up trash from the surface of the ocean had detached, 23-year-old inventor Boyan Slat wrote in a January 1 blog post. The system's deployment followed years of Ocean Cleanup research and fundraising that generated about $35 million in donations and sponsors, including PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

"Although it is too early to confirm the cause of the malfunction, we hypothesize that material fatigue (caused by about 10^6 load cycles), combined with a local stress concentration, caused a fracture in the HDPE floater", Slat said, adding that the issue is "solvable".

After years of hype and excitement, Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup hasn't exactly enjoyed the finest maiden voyage. Some debris had been eluding capture because the system apparently was not consistently traveling faster than the plastic, the Ocean Cleanup announced about a month ago. Sensors attached to Wilson have gathered "terabytes of data", which Slat said will be used to help develop system improvements.

The organization has also observed that the system creates waves, possibly preventing plastic from entering the mouth of the device.

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