Six years since Boyan Slat began developing a system to rid the world’s oceans of harmful plastic. In 2013, the entrepreneur founded The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit that aims to remove plastic from the Pacific Ocean, a trash-filled vortex in the Pacific Ocean that’s more than twice the size of Texas.
According to Business Insider, the company designed a device that passively collects plastic in its fold like a giant arm. But the system has hit several snags, including a manufacturing and design flaw that caused the plastic to spill back into the ocean. More recently, plastic began flowing over the top of a cork line that helps stabilize the system.
Earlier, the Ocean Cleanup announced that it had fixed that problem and that the device is now capturing and retaining plastic debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
So far, the team has collected large fishing nets, plastic objects like cartons and crates, and microplastics as small as 1 millimeter in length.
Business Insider reported that the system’s ability to trap microplastics came as a surprise, the company stated in a press release. The Ocean Cleanup’s previously researcher had suggested that microplastics rain down like ash toward the bottom of the ocean and so should be less likely to stay floating close to the surface. Because of that, the organization has focused on removing larger pieces of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.