While most 20-year-olds are spending their time having fun and figuring out their lives, Boyan Slat is trying to clean up our world’s oceans.
His goal? “To halve the amount of plastic debris floating in the Pacific within a decade.” And with about eight million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean every year, this young Dutchman’s The Ocean Cleanup project couldn’t come soon enough.
At present, plastic waste in the oceans congregate within five rotating currents, or gyres, scattered throughout the world.
The premise is simple: “why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you?” So Slat’s plan is to place enormous floating barriers right on these gyres to capture the plastic waste flowing through these areas.
The barriers are huge V-shaped buffers — 6,500 feet wide and anchored by floating booms.
These barriers aren’t nets, so there is no chance that animals will get caught in them. Furthermore, current will still flow freely beneath the booms, ensuring the safety of marine animals.
Because plastic is buoyant, the barriers would essentially funnel them above the water’s surface, making extraction and disposal a lot easier.
It’s a passive system that seems very simple, but in reality, The Ocean Cleanup has worked with 100 volunteer scientists and engineers to confirm that it is, indeed, a feasible and cost-effective method to rid the seas of garbage.
Like all fledgling projects, there are some technical issues that have been raised by environmental watchdogs, such as Deep Sea News. However, The Ocean Cleanup’s plan is sound enough to move forward.
In fact, it has been dubbed the largest maritime clean-up in history and is already set for deployment in 2016.
And to think it all started with a 20-year-old with a huge idea.
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