Quantcast
Business

20 Year Old Claims He Can Rid the World's Oceans of Plastic

Last June, an intrepid teenaged environmentalist made headlines after developing The Ocean Cleanup, described as the "world's first feasible concept to clean the oceans of plastic."

Twenty-year-old Boyan Slat's project aims to passively clean the oceans of plastic. Photo Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Boyan Slat, a Dutch former aerospace engineering student, said his plastic-capturing concept can clean half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a decade. The project was inspired after the young man took a diving trip in Greece in 2011 and saw more plastic in the water than fish.

Slat's ambitious project—proposed when he was only 17—received a slew of accolades and was recently named a finalist in London's Design Museum′s Design of the Year awards, which "celebrate design that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year."

The design involves a static platform that passively corrals plastics as wind and ocean currents push debris through V-shaped booms that are 100 kilometers long. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup

The design involves a static platform that passively corrals plastics as wind and ocean currents push debris through V-shaped booms that are 100 kilometers long. The floating filters would catch all the plastic off the top three meters of water where the concentration of plastic is the highest, while allowing fish and other marine life to pass under without getting caught. Besides natural currents, the self-sufficient platform would also be powered by 162 solar panels.

Traditional strategies of capturing ocean plastic usually involve vessels and nets, but Slat's study pointed out, "Not only would by-catch and emissions likely cancel out the good work, but also, due to the vastness of areas in which the plastics concentrate, such an operation would cost many billions of dollars, and thousands of years to complete."

Besides natural currents, the self-sufficient platform would also be powered by 162 solar panels. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup

The platform would be emptied of its haul every month and a half. As for what can be done with the plastic, the Ocean Cleanup team tested degraded plastic from the Hawaiian shoreline and found that it's suitable to be turned into oil. They have also tested whether or not the plastic can be recycled.

Critics have written off the idea, but Slat and 70 other scientists and engineers composed a 530-page feasibility report, and concluded that the concept "is indeed likely a feasible and viable ocean cleanup technique." Their conclusion has also been peer-reviewed by external experts, Slat wrote in a blog post.

As for what can be done with the plastic, the Ocean Cleanup team tested degraded plastic from the Hawaiian shoreline and found that it's suitable to be turned into oil. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup

After releasing the feasibility report, Slat launched an extremely successful crowdfunding campaign that garnered support from 38,000 funders from 160 countries, and raised $2 million in 100 days. The project is currently in phase two in which a team will build a large-scale, fully operational pilot of the design near the Azores Islands within the next three to four years.

After introducing the idea at a 2012 TEDx Talk conference in the Netherlands, the Ocean Cleanup crew has since gone on several gyre expeditions. Last month, a sampling team took off for a month-long trip to the North Atlantic Gyre. Slat tweeted some good news from the crew:

We previously mentioned that plastic threatens marine life and marine ecosystems, and also causes about $13 billion in damages to marine ecosystems each year. In the video below, Slat talks about how his concept could rid the world of this costly environmental menace with seemingly little effort.

"Why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you?" he said. "Instead of going after the plastics, you could simply wait for the plastics to come to you without requiring any added energy."

Watch Slat's Ted Talk:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

8 Million Metric Tons of Plastic Dumped Into World’s Oceans Each Year

5 Gyres Institute Finds Plastic in Every Ocean Sample From Bermuda to Iceland

World’s Largest Plastic Bottle Structure Draws Attention to Global Plastic Pollution Crisis

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
PxHere

This Common Preservative in Processed Food May Be Making You Tired

By Brian Mastroianni

Is it hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch and go exercise?

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

EVs 101: Your Guide to Electric Vehicles

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
An adult bush dog, part of a captive breeding program. Hudson Garcia

A Rescue Dog Is Now Helping to Save Other (Much Wilder) Dogs

By Jason Bittel

Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
RoNeDya / iStock / Getty Images

What Is Mead, and Is It Good for You?

By Ansley Hill, RD, LD

Mead is a fermented beverage traditionally made from honey, water and a yeast or bacterial culture.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
U.S. Army member helps clear debris from Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael. U.S. Army

Pentagon: Climate Change Is Real and a 'National Security Issue'

The Pentagon released a Congressionally mandated report (pdf) that warns flooding, drought and wildfires and other effects of climate change puts U.S. military bases at risk.

The 22-page analysis states plainly: "The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) missions, operational plans, and installations."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Protesters interrupt the confirmation hearing for Andrew Wheeler on Capitol Hill Jan. 16 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

5 People Calling Out EPA Acting Head Wheeler for Putting Polluters First

This week, people across the country are joining environmental leaders to speak out against the nomination of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Scott Pruitt's hand-picked successor, Wheeler has continued to put polluters over people, most recently by using the last of his agency's funding before it expired in the government shutdown to announce plans to allow power plants to spew toxic mercury and other hazardous pollution into the air.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Marine Biologists Raise Flags About Viral Great White Shark Encounter

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive marine mammal.

Keep reading... Show less
A tree found severed in half in an act of vandalism in Joshua Tree National Park. Gina Ferazzi / Los AngelesTimes / Getty Images

Wall Before Country Takes Mounting Toll on Americans Everywhere

By Rhea Suh

One month on, the longest and most senseless U.S. government shutdown in history is taking a grave and growing toll on the environment and public health.

Food inspectors have been idled or are working without pay, increasing the risk we'll get sick from eating produce, meat and poultry that isn't properly checked. National parks and public wilderness lands are overrun by vandals, overtaken by off-road joyriders, and overflowing with trash. Federal testing of air and water quality, as well as monitoring of pollution levels from factories, incinerators and other sources, is on hold or sharply curtailed. Citizen input on critical environmental issues is being hindered. Vital research and data collection are being sidelined.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!