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
Popular
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, seen here speaking to the press about the Flint water crisis in 2016, will be the highest ranking official to stand trial over the public health disaster. Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Judge Orders Michigan Health Director to Face Trial Over Flint Water Crisis Deaths

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will be the highest ranking official to go to trial so far as a result of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Judge David Goggins ruled Monday there was probable cause for Lyon to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder that prosecutors say were due to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that Lyon was aware of a year before he alerted Michigan's governor, Michigan Live reported. Lyons is also charged with misconduct in office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Coal-fired power plant near Becker, Minnesota. Tony Webster / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump's 'Dirty Power Plan' Could Cost More Than 1,000 Lives a Year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The new coal pollution rules will increase planet-warming carbon pollution and could cost more than a thousand American lives each year, according to the EPA's own estimates.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule" today under President Trump's directive. The new plan encourages efficiency improvements at existing coal plants to ensure they operate longer and allows states to weaken, or even eliminate, coal emissions standards. That's a clear difference from former President Obama's plan, which was aimed at phasing out coal and transitioning to cleaner power sources to avoid dangerous climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Two workers in protective gear scrape asbestos tile and mastic from a facility at Naval Base Point Loma in California. NAVFAC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S.

Reports surfaced this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR) for asbestos in June, requiring anyone who wanted to start or resume importing or manufacturing the carcinogenic mineral to first receive EPA approval.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rklfoto / Getty Images

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Wants to End EPA’s Cruel Animal Testing

By Justin Goodman and Nathan Herschler

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress recently pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its "questionable" and "dubious" animal tests. The lawmakers' demand for information on "horrific and inhumane" animal testing at the EPA comes on the heels of a recent Johns Hopkins University study that found that high-tech computer models are more effective than animal tests.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Wikimedia Commons

Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and now the region's thickest and oldest sea ice—also known as "the last ice area"—is breaking up for the first time on record, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The breakage has opened up waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen-solid even in the peak of summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Climate Justice Edmonton

These Giant Portraits Will Stand in the Path of Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Andrea Germanos

To put forth a "hopeful vision for the future" that includes bold climate action, a new installation project is to be erected along the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route to harnesses art's ability to be a force for social change and highlight the fossil fuel project's increased threats to indigenous rights and a safe climate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A worker inspects recycled plastic in a plastics factory. Getty Images

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is an Opportunity to Get Serious About Recycling

By Kate O'Neill

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called "National Sword" policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Aaron Teasdale

The One Thing Better Than Summer Skiing

By Aaron Teasdale

"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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