The Ocean Cleanup project was heralded as the big solution we needed to the problem of ocean plastic. Then it broke. The 2,000 ft long floating boom that uses currents to collect waste fell apart under constant waves and wind, and it wasn’t successful in retaining all the plastic it caught. But after four months of repairs, the floating boom has now been redeployed in a second attempt to clean up a huge island of garbage swirling in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii.
So how does it work? Basically, the boom features a plastic barrier with a tapered three meters deep (10 ft) screen that 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. 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.
When the floating device broke months ago, critics were quick to criticize the Ocean Cleanup project as a waste of time and money. We’re here to say that with any project that attempts to do something as ambitious as rid the ocean of plastic, mistakes are bound to happen and a little patience is needed. Hopefully, this time around the device will work as it was intended to, which could lead to the deployment of more of these floating cleaners.