A Solution to Ocean Plastic Pollution?

Posted by: The Blue Ocean team

Boyan Slat is a 23-year-old Dutch inventor who doesn’t believe in modest solutions to big problems. And the problem he has chosen to tackle is a huge one: ocean plastics pollution. It all started six years ago when Slat saw an opportunity where others only saw constraints.

Cleaning up particles of plastic in the ocean can take up to 80,000 years, and because they are constantly moving with currents, trying to collect them all with nets is a losing game. When he was just 18, Slat explained in a TEDx talk why he thought that the currents could be used to help clean up the ocean and reduce the clean-up time from millennia to mere years.

Ocean currents: a constraint turned into an opportunity

His idea was received with scepticism from some scientists but that didn’t stop Slat from dropping out of school to raise funds to create the technology. Through a non-profit he founded, The Ocean Cleanup, he went on to raise $2.2 million through crowd-funding, and millions more from other investors who believed in his idea. Now the first-ever ocean plastic cleaner is due to set sail for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of junk bigger than France, Germany and Spain combined, containing 79,000 tons of plastic.

The first-ever ocean plastic cleaner

The system consists of a giant tube made of durable plastic and a nylon screen, so fish don’t get caught. Weighed down by large anchors driven by the same currents as the plastic, but moving more slowly, the system is able to scoop up the collected plastic.

Ultimately, Slat wants to get the support to create more of the same systems and scale up to tackle other accumulations of plastic around the world, from the South Pacific to the Atlantic.

Will this revolutionary system shape the future of the ocean and of our ecosystem as a whole? Has Boyan Slat made a blue ocean shift in the environmental industry? Let us know what you think by voting below.

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