Teen Solves One Of Earth’s Biggest Ecological Problems After a Vacation
While vacationing in Greece, 16-year-old Boyan Slat was dismayed to find that he came across more plastic than fish while diving in the Mediterranean. Back home in the Netherlands, he decided to devote a high school project to looking at plastic pollution in the ocean to figure out why it was considered so difficult to clean up. What he discovered stunned him.
Plastic garbage from all over the globe pours into the world’s oceans. Over time it gets carried by the currents to five regions of the ocean known as gyres, also known as the world’s “ocean garbage patches.” In fact, there is even an area located between California and Hawaii known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where so much plastic and debris has accumulated there are even areas solid enough to walk on.
The Garbage Patch Kid
Boyan came up with an ingenious idea to try and clean up the plastic polluting the ocean. It involved developing a passive system, using the ocean currents as the driving force to catch the plastic. He first suggested that a 65-mile floating V-shaped array could collect plastic floating near the surface and funnel it to a collection point, where boats would then pick the plastic up for recycling. In 2012, he gave a TED talk on his idea that went viral. In 2013, 18-year-old Boyan founded the nonprofit company The Ocean Cleanup, whose mission is to develop advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.
The Clean Machine
Initially, Boyan and The Ocean Cleanup had planned a full launch for late 2020, but now they expect to be able to start as soon as 2018. There have been some changes to the original design as the project has moved through the prototype and testing phases to streamline the process. Boyan says that the long-term plan is to recycle all the plastic collected from the ocean into items like car bumpers, chairs, and eyewear to help defray the operational costs.
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