Remember That $20 Million Ocean Cleanup Project? It Isn’t Working.

Organizers are trying to clear a pile of debris twice the size of Texas.

Michel Porro/Getty Images

This story was originally published by GristIt appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The $20 million effort to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has hit a bit of a snafu.

Organizers for The Ocean Cleanup, which launched the project in September, already had their work cut out for them—the floating garbage patch is made up of an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, which has coalesced into a field of debris twice the size of Texas, weighing in at 88,000 tons (that’s the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets, yikes).

In order to clean up the massive garbage island, engineers at the non-government organization built a U-shaped barrier, which they hoped would act like a coastline, trapping the plastic floating in large swathes of the patch. The system can communicate its whereabouts at all times, allowing a support vessel to come by periodically to pick up all the junk in the device’s trunk, so to speak, for recycling.

The highly anticipated endeavor deployed out of San Francisco in September, when the floating device—known as System 001 or Wilson—was towed out to the island of rubbish located between California and Hawaii. The goal of The Ocean Cleanup is to remove up to 50 percent of plastics in the area within five years.