If you follow ocean conservation news at all you may have heard the name Boyan Slat. The now 25 year old Dutch inventor first debuted his idea in a Ted Talk in 2012. You can watch his Ted Talk below.
In 2013 Slat founded the non-profit entity The Ocean Cleanup. This organization received millions of dollars in funding which allowed for the development of several inventions that will clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch entirely in about 10 years – once all of the systems are deployed. Here’s how:
Cleaning Up The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
By using the ocean’s gyres the Plastic Retention System seen pictured below acts as an artificial coastline. This system makes the extremely difficult job of concentrating the plastic so that it can be effectively removed from the ocean possible. And because it is using the gyres, it does not require power in order to operate it. This makes the efforts both affordable and scalable.
System 001/B is made up of floats that sit on the surface of the water. Attached to the floats is a “skirt” that hangs beneath it which prevents the plastic and other marine debris from escaping from underneath it. As the gyres move the plastic into position, the system collects it and keeps it concentrated so that it can be effectively removed.
It is estimated that a full scale cleanup system roll-out could remove 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 5 years! “After fleets of systems are deployed into every ocean gyre, combined with source reduction, The Ocean Cleanup projects to be able to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040.” The Ocean Clean Up’s website states.
Great news! But what about preventing it from entering the ocean to begin with?
Preventing Trash From Entering Our Oceans
In October of 2019 the 100% solar powered Interceptor 002 was deployed in Malaysia.
This vessel is the first scalable solution to prevent plastic from entering the world’s oceans from rivers and streams. According to their research, 80% of river plastic stems from 1,000 rivers. By 2025, The Ocean Cleanup aims to start tackling trash in these 1,000 rivers by deploying an Interceptor vessel into each of these rivers. This will significantly reduce the amount of trash that enters into our oceans every year. Watch the video below to see the unveiling of the Interceptor River Clean Up system.
What Are They Going to do With All of That Trash?
“Technology is the most potent agent of change. It is an amplifier of our human capabilities”, Slat wrote in The Economist. “Whereas other change-agents rely on reshuffling the existing building blocks of society, technological innovation creates entirely new ones, expanding our problem-solving toolbox.” – Boyan Slat
All of that technology and development of the trash collection systems costs a lot of money. While Boyan has stated that his overall goal is to put The Ocean Cleanup out of business – which would mean a 100% clean environment -in order to get to that point, they need more funding. So they are now working on creating products with the ocean plastic that they retrieve. 100% of the product’s profits will be re-invested in order to fund their operations according to their website. You can donate towards their efforts and read more about their future plans on their website here: https://products.theoceancleanup.com/