Back in September, The Ocean Cleanup launched their first system. It was the result of years of work, fundraising, and research. Hundreds of scale models and nearshore prototypes were in the rearview mirror when System 001 weighed anchor from a San Francisco port. The aim wasn’t only to clean up the ocean’s plastic but to prove that their technology could do it.
After about a month, it completed the 1,300-mile journey and the 2,000-foot contraption began attempting to do what it was created for. Soon, however, it became clear that there were a few problems: the enormous boom wasn’t holding the plastic it collected and an 18-meter section of the floater disconnected from the whole thing.
“It has been four weeks since we deployed System 001 in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP),” Slat wrote in an update at the time on The Ocean Cleanup’s website. “In this time, we have observed that plastic is exiting the system once it is collected.”
Like any good scientist does, however, they expected a few hiccups. “When launching the system, we knew, and had to accept, that uncertainty remained,” the team wrote. “This makes sense, as something like this has never been done before.”
They hauled the whole thing back to dry land and began to look into what went wrong. Now, four months after System 001 failed its first test, The Ocean Cleanup has answers. Now all that remains is to fix the problems and get back in the water, which the team says will happen in just a few months.
“The problem of ocean plastic is getting worse by the day, so it is crucial that we get System 001 operational as soon as possible, after which we can start the scale-up. The engineering team is using these conclusions and results to update the design and prepare for relaunch.”