Environment

Garbage Patch Cleanup Setback

A giant U-shaped floating barrier designed to corral debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been broken apart by the constant wind and waves of the North Pacific winter.

The prototype was towed to the patch between Hawaii and California last September, and early reports said it was moving slower than the plastic, allowing the trash to escape.

“This is an entirely new category of machine that is out there in extremely challenging conditions,” said the device’s 24-year-old inventor, Boyan Slat.

He said his Ocean Cleanup project will tow the broken device to Hawaii for examination, and it may need to be brought back to the project’s headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area for full repairs.

EWCOLOR

Environment

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Has Quadrupled, Maybe Even 16-upled

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is getting denser. The enormous plastic soup floating in the vast North Pacific spans more than 617,000 square miles (1.6 million square kilometers), and its density is now between four and 16 times greater than previous estimates, scientists have found.

Researchers made the discovery by looking at the garbage patch in the Pacific between California and Hawaii. They found that the patch has more than 87,000 tons (79,000 metric tons) of plastic in it. That equates to 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, or roughly 250 pieces for every person on the planet, the researchers said.

Plastics made up 99.9 percent of the debris in the patch. Fishing nets accounted for at least 46 percent of the plastic, the researchers found. Smaller items had broken into fragments, but researchers still managed to identify quite a few objects, including containers, bottles, lids, packaging straps and ropes. Fifty items even had discernable dates, including one from 1977, seven from the 1980s, 17 from the 1990s, 24 from the 2000s and one from 2010.