By Star Noor, Contributing Editor
At 21 years of age Boyan Slat is a prodigy who is combining environmentalism, entrepreneurism and technology to tackle global issues of sustainability. He has invented an ingenious method to rid our oceans of plastic waste called The Ocean Cleanup, a technology which is successfully being tested after incredible success in crowd funding, raising close to $2.2 m.
Slat, its inceptor and CEO says, “The Ocean Cleanup is aimed at environmentally-friendly, large scale and efficient removal of plastic pollution from our aquatic ecosystems, while simultaneously raising awareness by communicating this process intensively. I came up with a passive system of floating barriers that is attached to the seabed, and oriented in a V-shape. The barriers first catch and then concentrate the plastic, enabling a platform to efficiently extract it once arrived in the center of the V.”
According to The Ocean Cleanup website millions of tons of plastic have entered the oceans, with plastic concentrating in five rotating gyres, and one third of all oceanic plastic located within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In 2015, Slat and Ocean Cleanup sent a fleet of scientists and volunteers to measure and map the waves of plastic trash making their way across the Pacific tides toward the West coast. After extensive testing they concluded that the plastic waste problem is much larger than previously thought. This is where the main focus of this initiative is, and by 2020, the technology should be ready for use. “If a cleanup would start today, it would be a bit like mopping up the floor while the tap is still running. But until now, the mop hadn’t been invented yet.”
The Ocean Cleanup now has 125 dedicated team members of scientists and experts, and will be deploying a 100 meter-long barrier segment in the second quarter of 2016 in the North Sea, 23 km off the coast of The Netherlands. It will be the first time their barrier design will be put to the test in open waters.
At 21, Boyan Slat is being globally recognized for his work, including being named as one of the 20 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs Worldwide (Intel EYE50), and 2014 Champion of the Earth, the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade. In 2015, HM King Harald of Norway awarded Boyan the maritime industry’s Young Entrepreneur Award, and Foreign Policy magazine included Boyan in their 2015 list of Global Thinkers. The future looks bright, not only for Slat but also for our oceans, if he has anything to do with it.
Photo Credit: Roger Moenks, Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup