“Why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you?”
This is the basic principle at work behind 19-year-old Boyan Slat’s genius plan to remove millions of tons of plastic from the world’s oceans. President and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, Slat and about 100 volunteers are single-handedly working to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years—that’s some 3.5 billion pounds of plastic. If left unattended, scientists estimate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to double in size in the next 10 years.
The method is to use the ocean’s natural currents to help extract the plastic from the water as opposed to traditional methods using nets to go “fishing for the plastic.” After a diving trip in Greece, during which he became aware of how much waste was in the ocean water, Slat invented a technique to set up floating barriers that would catch and concentrate the plastic debris, while allowing the ocean currents to pass underneath the barriers and prevent any sea life by catch.
After presenting his idea in a 2012 TEDx lecture Slat and his team of scientists and engineers conducted an extensive feasibility study to prove the effectiveness of his method to safely clean up plastics from the planet’s oceans in a timely and cost-effective approach.
The Ocean Cleanup Foundation presented the study’s exciting results June 3 at The Ocean Cleanup Release Event in New York City. The feasibility took 400 days to complete, according to the Ocean Cleanup Fact Sheet, and resulted in a 530-age report. Its main conclusion: Slat’s system is “likely a feasible and viable method for large-scale, passive and efficient removal of floating plastic from the North Pacific Garbage Patch,” and has the capacity to remove the ocean debris 7,900 times faster than conventional methods while being 33 times cheaper.
The next phase of the Ocean Cleanup Concept is to conduct a series of detailed tests and oceanographic field research to “eliminate uncertainties and optimize technical design” in order to work towards launching a large-scale and fully operational pilot in 3-5 years.
The foundation has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $2 million in 100 days to help fund the next phase of the Ocean Cleanup Concept. The funds will go towards keeping the methods as cost-effective as possible by facilitating research and communication.
“It wouldn’t be very cost-efficient to try to build our own engineering company and oceanographic institute,” Slat says. “Instead, we seek collaborations with existing parties, enabling us to focus on the bigger picture.”
The campaign has raised $172,779 with 94 days to go. To contribute to the Ocean Cleanup Concept, you can go to the Ocean Cleanup’s fund page here.