Dutch College Student Plans the Biggest Ocean Clean Up in History.

Boyan Slat, a 21-year-old Dutch college student, is planning the biggest ocean clean up in history. He came up with the idea when he was 16 years old, for a high school science project, and has been working on the idea ever since. 

Rather than using boats and a net to go after the plastic, his idea is to use the ocean currents. There are 5 main gyres in the ocean where plastic concentrates, and he plans to use floating barriers attached to the sea bed to trap plastic which will then float along the barrier to a platform where the plastic is extracted, the collected ocean plastic will then be recycled back into oil. This method is inexpensive, uses virtually no extra energy, does not give off emissions, it is safe for sea life because they do not use nets and sea life is able to swim under the barriers, and it will take an estimated 10 years to clean the entire ocean, rather than the thousands of years estimated if we tried to go after all of the plastic using a boat and nets. Here is an animation of Boyan’s idea. 

When Boyan came up with the idea in high school, it was just an idea. He struggled to find sponsors. In 2013 he gave a TED talk about his idea, and his video went viral, and he was able to raise $80,000 in 15 days through crowd-source funding. He then set up a foundation called, The Ocean Cleanup. He got a lot of bad press, saying his idea was impossible and he didn’t have the proper research, so he found 100 oceanographers, scientists, and engineers who would volunteer to help him conduct the proper research. In 2014 The Ocean Cleanup published it’s Feasibility study, proving Boyan’s idea works, and they are scheduled to deploy a pilot version of the barrier for 2016, and then start the actual ocean clean up by 2020. 

It’s amazing what Boyan has been able to accomplish, his idea was really only an idea in the beginning. He didn’t know all the steps he would have to make, but he was able to rally support and get professionals interested and invested in the project to make this a reality. I think most importantly he gave people hope that there is a solution to such a huge, and seemingly impossible problem. Way to go Boyan! To learn more about The Ocean Cleanup visit their website.