A floating device sent to corral a swirling island of trash between California and Hawaii has not swept up any plastic waste—but the young innovator behind the project said Monday that a fix is in the works. Boyan Slat, 24, who launched the Pacific Ocean cleanup project, said the speed of the solar-powered barrier isn't allowing it to hold on to the plastic it catches. "Sometimes the system actually moves slightly slower than the plastic, which of course you don't want because then you have a chance of losing the plastic again," Slat tells the AP. A crew of engineers will reach the U-shaped boom Tuesday and will work for the next few weeks to widen its span so that it catches more wind and waves to help it go faster, he said.
A ship towed the 2,000-foot-long barrier in September from San Francisco to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—an island of trash twice the size of Texas. It has been in place since the end of October, Slat said. The plastic barrier with a tapered 10-foot-deep screen is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it. Fitted with solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors, and satellite antennas, the device intends to communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land for recycling. "We've given ourselves a year after launch to get this thing working," Slat said. (Read more on the project here.)