Inventor at Any Age

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If you sit on the beach long enough, you are bound to see plastic trash wash up on shore. Not surprising when there is at least 5.25 trillion tons of it in the oceans, and 8 million tons of plastic entering the oceans each year. What most of us don’t see are the tiny particles of plastic that have been floating around the ocean polluting marine life and us. According to UNEP report plastic pollution causes at least $13 billion each year to industries around the world that include fishing, shipping, tourism and the cleaning of coastlines. 

One young inventor, at the age of 17 years, didn’t look at the ocean’s future with a bleak outlook. Instead, he decided to find a solution to this ever-growing problem affecting the entire food chain.

It started out as a high school science project, initiated after a diving trip in Greece during 2011. Slat saw more plastic bags in the water than fish and decided to embark on an ambitious project to sift out the plastic from the world’s oceans. Designing this system was no easy task. It met with many challenges along the way; surviving ocean storms, eliminating bio-catch and what to do with the waste collected. 

The Ocean Cleanup Array. Pictured is the center of the V, including the collection stationThe design, a passive corralling system anchored to the seabed. At the center of the V-shaped design is a platform, run by solar panels, extracting and storing plastic that floats along on the ocean currents. Three meter deep filters along a 100 kilometer floating system would collect plastic to be hauled away every month and half. The plastics collected during a study along the Hawaiian shoreline proved to be reusable as oil. 

The Ocean Cleanup made headlines last June when Boyan Slat’s plastic capturing concept estimated to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in one decade. Disregarding critics of the project, Slat and a team of 70 scientists and engineers composed a 530-page feasibility report followed by a campaign to raise money for launching phase two, a large-scale fully operational pilot design near the Azores Islands. This successful campaign managed to raise $2 million in 100 days. 

During the next year, Slat and his team will deploy an operational pilot array, 2000 meters long, in the coastal waters. This small scale cleanup of 30 vessels will help the team determine the spatial and size distribution of plastic pollution floating in the Pacific Ocean before launching the full scale clean-up in 2020.

Visit Slat’s site for more information on how you can help, join their team and follow their blog.