Boyan Slat, CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, is solving one of the biggest eco disasters of our time.
The design he dreamed up in his teenage bedroom will cut the time it takes to rid the ocean of plastic pollution from 79,000 years to just ten. Pretty incredible, huh?
Boyan talks to us about his inspiration, optimism for the future and how the ground-breaking design works.
"I'm not entirely sure whether I'm not crazy," Boyan says. "Maybe I am?" What do you think? We'd love to hear your responses in the comments!
As a diving enthusiast Boyan Slat noticed that there were more plastic bags than fish in the water around him. So, at the age of 16, he instigated The Ocean Cleanup, an enormous, but absolutely vital, effort to rid our ocean of plastic.
At first he was told it was impossible.
"Pessimism is what preserves the status quo and optimism is what brings us forward," he says.
Currently he and his team are mapping the plastic by air and testing a 100m-long prototype in the North Sea.
By working with the best technology and most innovative materials available on the planet, Boyan created a prototype that should be able to withstand the extreme forces at sea.
So how does it work?
On our planet there are five garbage patches where plastic debris circulates. In 2020, The Ocean Cleanup will first tackle the largest garbage patch, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, found between Hawaii and California.
A V-shaped barrier is placed perpendicular to the ocean currents to collect as much plastic as possible. With its remarkable length of 100km it’s the largest floating object at sea. It’s five times further away from the coastline than the closest oil rig, and it needs to be anchored at a depth that’s never been reached before.
To conquer these challenges, The Ocean Cleanup uses advanced technology and innovative materials such as Dyneema, the world’s strongest fibre. It’s 15x stronger than steel and was developed by DSM.
This allows the whole construction to move with the waves, making it capable of withstanding fierce ocean storms.
The barriers are not built with nets but with an impenetrable solid screen, which naturally guides fish and other marine life underneath, so they don’t get stuck.
Every four to six weeks the plastic will be collected by ship from a storage facility at the tip of the V-shaped barrier and reused, recycled or turned into bunker fuel for its service vessels. The operation will be self-sustainable and pay for itself.
What does Boyan say to those who say this is an impossible task?
“Human history is sort of a long list of things that were impossible and then were done.
"I’ve been an inventor really for all my life. The feeling you get when you think about something and then see that become reality... There's really no better feeling than that, the act of creation.”
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