Ocean Cleanup Device Malfunctions

Boyan Slat's ocean cleaning device.             
    CBS News

Boyan Slat's ocean cleaning device. CBS News

"We hoped to stay out for a bit longer to collect more data on plastic-system interaction", he said....

Efforts to clear the oceans of plastic have been dealt a blow after a project to sift waste from the Pacific using a £20 million wind- and wave-propelled barrier ended in failure.

The first major snag came last month when we found out the system's massive boom wasn't actually holding onto all the plastic it was created to collect.

Now, a 60-foot section of the device has broken free from the system, the organization announced December 29. A skirt about 10 feet deep was supposed to catch the plastic, but that also didn't go as planned.

The plastic pipe-and-skirt system placed in the Pacific Ocean to corral marine litter needs fix for "structural malfunctioning" about two-and-a-half months after being deployed to the garbage patch halfway between California and Hawaii. It set sail from San Francisco in September, with the goal of cleaning half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years.

Slat said he and his team are "quite bummed" that they are required to return to port ahead of schedule but are optimistic for continued success.

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Operations have been put on hold after an 18-meter section separated from the end of the system, forcing an early return to port for upgrades and repairs, The Ocean Cleanup Founder & CEO Boyan Slat said on Monday.

"Although it is too early to confirm the cause of the malfunction, we hypothesize that material fatigue (caused by about 10^6 load cycles), combined with a local stress concentration, caused a fracture in the HDPE floater", Slat said, adding that the issue is "solvable".

Slat said he thinks they're close to making his system work. The crew is looking at ways to speed the system and studying the effect of currents and waves on plastics' ability to enter the mouth for collection.

Boyan Slat's ocean cleaning device. The one known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located between Hawaii and California, and it's about double the size of Texas, or three times the size ofFrance.

"The system isn't able to retain the plastic well, so once it's caught we also see it floating out again, which is likely caused by the system not moving fast enough", Slat said.

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