Aerial view of the Ocean Cleanup project's plastic collecting boom at sea. Photo: CBS News

By James Rainey
4 January 2019

(NBC News) – An ambitious project to clean up a vast tide of ocean pollution has been sidelined. The project's 2,000-foot-long screen — which was already failing to capture plastic while stationed more than 1,000 miles off the coast of California — broke apart just before New Year's under the constant wind and waves of the Pacific Ocean.

The young Dutch inventor who conceived the Ocean Cleanup project, and hopes to one day deploy 60 of the devices to skim plastic debris off the surface of the ocean, said Thursday that he would not be deterred by the setback.

Boyan Slat said in a phone interview from his office in Rotterdam, Netherlands, that the screen would be towed about 800 miles to Hawaii. Once there, it will either be repaired or loaded onto a barge to return to its home port of Alameda, California.

"Of course there is slight disappointment, because we hoped to stay out there a bit longer to do more experiments and to … solve the [plastic] retention issue," Slat said. "But there is no talk whatsoever about discouragement.

"This is an entirely new category of machine that is out there in extremely challenging conditions," Slat added. "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."

But a critic who has followed Slat's project since he unveiled it more than five years ago said the failure was predictable and that systems deployed closer to shore stand a greater chance of slowing the deluge of plastics spilling into the world's oceans.

"I certainly hope they will be able to get it to work, but this is a very difficult environment where equipment breaks, which is why you normally do things closer to shore, where things are easier to repair," said Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. [more]

The audacious plan to clean plastics from the Pacific Ocean has broken down



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