In 2012, at just 18 years of age, Dutch inventor Boyan Slat came up with a revolutionary idea: autonomous floating garbage collectors that would help the oceans tackle their ongoing plastic problem themselves. A TEDx talk he delivered on the subject went viral, receiving just under 3 million views, and his non-profit organisation Ocean Cleanup was born, attracting $2.2m in crowdfunding. The team now consists of more than 80 engineers, scientists, researchers and computational modellers working to rid the world’s ocean of plastic.
“For society to progress, we should not only move forward but also clean up after ourselves,” Slat says on the Ocean Cleanup website.
His target is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a 270,000 square mile area of floating bottles and packaging that lies in between Hawaii and California. Slat aims to clean up half of the patch in five years’ time, and 90% by 2040, using a 600-metre-long floating device that moves with the currents and gobbles up plastic. The items will then be brought back to shore and made into durable products, with the revenue used to fund more cleanup drives.
In October 2019, the organisation announced that the project was finally working: the 600-metre-long floating device is moving with the currents and gobbling up everything from fishing nets to microplastics.
Although Ocean Cleanup has met some resistance from marine experts, who express concern about its long-term viability and the impact on marine life, the young inventor remains firmly optimistic about the project’s potential to do good, telling magazine Digital Trends support for the project is a “financial no-brainer”.
“Compared to the cost of leaving the plastic out there, the cost of the Ocean Cleanup is really insignificant,” he said. “According to the United Nations, the plastic currently in the ocean costs around $13 billion per year in terms of the damage to vessels, fisheries, and tourism. With the cleanup we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars per year. It’s no comparison. The cleanup is cheaper.”Tags: Netherlands, ocean, Ocean Conservation, plastic pollution