The u-shaped cleanup system that was deployed to the Pacific Garbage patch last fall is headed back to port for repairs due to a “structural malfunctioning” of the system, the company behind the project has announced.
In a blog post published this week, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup Project, Boyan Slat, said crews had discovered that an 18-meter end-section of System 001 had detached, requiring the entire system to be towed back to port for repairs and upgrades earlier than initially planned.
Both the 580-meter main section and the 18-meter end section are both reported to be completely stable. System 001 has now been safely opened and reconnected to the Maersk Transporter, which has commenced the tow back to the United States.
System 001, dubbed “Wilson”, departed from San Francisco for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch back in September as the world’s first large-scale system that would attempt to remove some of the nearly 2 trillion pieces of plastic that is estimated to be floating on or near the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Despite early performance issues, which Slat openly detailed in a blog post published in November, plus these new developments, Slat admits that although disappointing, the system is returning to port with terabytes of data that will be used to make upgrades so that the system can return to the Garbage Patch again in 2019.
The Maersk Transporter is also carrying around 2000 kg of plastic that was recovered over the past few weeks through a combination of the cleanup system and ghost net fishing. For comparison, Slat notes, System 001 is expected to harvest 1000 kg per week
“Although we would have liked to end the year on a more positive note, we believe these teething troubles are solvable, and the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be operational in 2019. The fact that the cleanup system orients itself in the wind, is able to follow the waves well and is able to catch and concentrate plastic gives us confidence in the technology,” Slat writes.
Down the road, the Ocean Cleanup Project envisions System 001 to be the first of around 60 systems focused on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over the next two years. According to the group, the fleet could be enough to remove half of the plastic in the Garbage Patch within just five years’ time.