by Alex Larson
The trash cleaning device deployed by the The Ocean Cleanup to collect plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean inside the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has broken apart and will be hauled back to land to attempt to repair.
Boyan Slat, who launched the project, told NBC that the device will be towed 800 miles to Hawaii so they can attempt to repair. If unable to, the device will be loaded on a barge and returned to Alameda, California.
The project has received an immense amount of criticism due to the concern of the trash collecting boom not being able to withstand the force of the ocean and that the device has failed to collect any significant amount of trash through months of testing.
Now, critics prediction of the device breaking has come true as the boom broke apart under constant wind and waves in the Pacific.
In late December, 60 feet of the device detached due to material fatigue. Slat then indicated that this likely occurred due to wave action placing stress on the boom. The fracture was caused by material fatigue, he wrote. That’s likely because of the intense action of the waves that puts tremendous stress on objects in the water.
“This is an entirely new category of machine that is out there in extremely challenging conditions,” the 24-year-old Dutch inventor said. “We always took into account that we might have to take it back and forth a few times. So it’s really not a significant departure from the original plan.”
The plastic barrier with a tapered 10-foot-deep (3-meter-deep) screen is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.
Slat has said he hopes one day to deploy 60 of the devices to skim plastic debris off the surface of the ocean.
With the device incapable of collecting trash and already breaking apart, more questions are quickly arising whether this effort is worth it and whether the group should continue to throw money at something that appears to not work.