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Another Setback for Ocean Cleanup Device

Repairs and upgrades are on tap
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2019 5:43 PM CST
Updated Jan 3, 2019 1:03 AM CST
A long floating boom that will be used to corral plastic litter in the Pacific Ocean is assembled in Alameda, Calif.   (The Ocean Cleanup via AP)

(Newser) – Great Pacific Garbage Patch: 2, Wilson: 0. That’s the score some two months after Dutch nonprofit Ocean Cleanup launched a plastic collection system, nicknamed Wilson, designed to capture trash floating in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. Wilson, a 2,000-foot-long U-shaped barrier that collects plastic in a 10-foot-deep screen, has been in operation since October. Last month the man behind the project, 24-year-old Boyan Slat, reported that, in some instances, the system was moving too slowly to actually hold onto the plastic it collected (or to even catch it in the first place). Now, per USA Today, a 60-foot section of the system has broken off and the whole thing will be towed back to port for repairs. In a statement, Slat says the problem was discovered Dec. 29 during a regular inspection and blames “material fatigue.”

“We are, of course, quite bummed about this,” he writes. “At the same time, we also realize that setbacks like this are inevitable when pioneering new technology at a rapid pace." While the rig is back at the former Navy base in Alameda, Calif., it will also undergo upgrades to address the plastic retention issue, per KTVU. Technology on the system has collected terabytes of data that can aid in the upgrades, Slat says. So far, Wilson has reportedly collected some two tons of plastic from the swirling garbage island estimated to be twice the size of Texas. “Although we would have liked to end the year on a more positive note,” Slat writes, “we believe these teething troubles are solvable, and the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be operational in 2019.” (Man's Pacific swim was "very disturbing.")

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