Dutch Inventor Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup Device Designed To Capture Floating Plastic Breaks Down


A project to clean up the world's ocean using a device designed to collect floating plastic debris encountered a major setback.

Ocean Cleanup Project

Young Dutch inventor Boyan Slat came up with the Ocean Cleanup project to clean the waste from the ocean as a teenager. He managed to raise more than $40 million for the project that has been touted as "the largest cleanup in history."

Slat's team has designed a pipe-shaped plastic barrier that can float on the ocean with a 10-foot-tall screen of impermeable synthetic textile that hangs beneath the surface.

The device is designed in a way that it could move with the wind and the waves and collect plastic debris that can be picked up and shipped to recycling centers.

Ocean Cleanup Device Falling Apart

The device, however, is falling apart. The project's 2,000-foot-long screen, which already failed to capture plastic while stationed off California's coast, broke apart before the New Year due to the Pacific Ocean's wind and waves.

The problem was detected on Dec. 29 during a routine inspection of the boat that oversees the project's beta tester called System 001.

"They noticed that this end section was free floating and had detached from the rest of the structure," Slat said.

The 24-year-old Slat, however, said on Thursday that he would not be deterred by the incident.

Discouragement Not An Issue

Slat, who hopes to deploy 60 of the ocean cleanup devices to collect plastic debris floating in the ocean, said discouragement is not an issue albeit they hoped they could stay out longer to do more experiments and do something about the plastic retention issue.

Slat isn't entirely surprised the device broke down explaining that this "entirely new category of machine" is exposed to an extremely challenging condition.

"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," Slat said.

Slat said that the screen would be towed about 800 miles to Hawaii, where it will be repaired or loaded into a barge to be brought back to its home port in Alameda, California.

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