The ocean cleanup project: Boyan Slat, an incredible proposal
The Ocean Cleanup project, born to rid the world’s oceans of floating plastic, is one of the best world inventions of 2015 and it is not over yet. The long term goal of this company is to clean the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 2020. The founder and CEO, Boyan Slat, startled the world in 2012, when he was only 17 years old, with a very brilliant idea to protect and defend the marine environment with a really simple technology: a passive system composed by an artificial coastline powered by natural ocean currents. In simple words a big barrier to filter the dirt and collect the garbage in large containers. But that’s not the whole story, because the captured plastic can be evaluated to be used as an alternative energy source. A great and revolutionary idea of a young man that today is very proud and satisfied with the results.
Ocean cleanup: Boyan Slat supported by scientists and people
Boyan Slat, 22 years old, is a dutch inventor, who creates technologies to solve societal problems. He is the founder of “The Ocean Cleanup” the company that develops advanced technologies to clean up the oceans. He has been recognized as one of the 20 most promising young entrepreneurs all over the world and he is the beneficiary of the highest environmental recognition of the United Nations. But let’s see how his great idea is born.
It all started in 2011 when, during some diving in Greece he noticed that in the water there was more plastic bags rather than fish and so he decided to do some research to replace and revolutionize the classic obsolete and inefficient methods, with a new system to cleanup the garbage in the sea.
“The oceans,” says Boyan Slat, “are full of garbage, objects discarded and thrown by humans. Only in the Pacific, we’re talking about 150 million tons of waste that in some areas even exceed the concentration of plankton, so that this area is now called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, a huge island of trash.
Until now, the only advice has been to use less plastic to avoid worsening the situation. But for me, a sea lover and respectful of nature, it was disconcerting to think to don’t being able to do nothing but limit consumption and so I figured a system to take advantage of the ocean currents, concentrating the plastic in only one place, also reducing the cleaning time”.
The opportunity to talk to the general public about his project has been “TEDx Delft”. So in the conference he presented his idea: floating barriers that passively capture the waste while water passes through. The video speech was a great success. The simple question of Boyan Slat “Why move through the Oceans, if the Oceans can move through you?” awakened the enthusiasm of scientists and engineers, impressed by the concept, who, through a crowdfunding, have allowed Slat to receive large sums of money.
Thus was born in 2013 the “Ocean Cleanup” project to protect the marine habitat. Without this barrier and only then, only with the help of natural currents, it would take about 79 thousand years to cleanup the ocean, an infinite time.
Ocean cleanup and the future
Ocean Cleanup has a long story and a large team. ”When I thought about all this in 2012, I had to figure out first if the idea could work. We launched a big expedition to test how much plastic there was in the Oceans and we discovered that there was much more than we could imagine, about 10 tons more. Then we had to test our ideas seriously in open waters, and for this purpose in 2013 I founded “The Ocean Cleanup”, and through a crowdfunding I obtained the necessary money (one and a half million euro) to build the first prototype of an underwater barrier”.
It was a 100 meter-long barrier segment, with a cost 33 times lower compared to traditional cleaning mechanisms, subjected to the most extreme conditions to investigate the survivability of the design, without damaging the ecosystem.
The project was inaugurated in 2016 in the waters near Japan. The goal was to clean up at least half of the plastic that was in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area great about twice the size of Texas.”Instead of using nets and vessels that would require an infinite time, we have developed this system: the waste is moving towards the center and thus the concentration increases by 100 thousand times”
“Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today” Boyan Slat stated in a blog post. The Ocean Cleanup has calculated that if no one intervenes, by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic than fishes. An environmental apocalypse that Boyan absolutely want to avoid, and with him the entrepreneurs who are helping him to realize his ecologist dream.