LOS ANGELES (LOG News Service) — A floating device sent to corral a swirling island of trash between California and Hawaii has not swept up any plastic waste — but the young innovator behind the project said that a fix was in the works.
Boyan Slat, 24, who launched the Pacific Ocean cleanup project, said the speed of the solar-powered barrier isn’t allowing it to hold on to the plastic it catches.
“Sometimes the system actually moves slightly slower than the plastic, which of course you don’t want because then you have a chance of losing the plastic again,” Slat said in an interview with The Associated Press.
A crew of engineers will work for the next few weeks to widen its span so that it catches more wind and waves to help it go faster, he said.
A ship towed the 2,000-foot-long barrier in September from San Francisco to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an island of trash twice the size of Texas. It has been in place since the end of October, Slat said.
The plastic barrier with a tapered 10-foot-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 said he is not deterred by the setback because engineers expected to make tweaks to the system.
“What we’re trying to do has never been done before. So, of course we were expecting to still need to fix a few things before it becomes fully operational,” he said of the system created by the Ocean Cleanup, an organization he founded.
Fitted with solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the device intends to communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land for recycling.
Slat said he expects shipping containers filled with fishing nets, plastic bottles, laundry baskets and other plastic trash scooped up by the system to be back on land within a year.