Pollution in the world’s waterways is one of the most serious challenges that our species is facing, and creative solutions are going to be needed in order to solve this problem. People from all over the world have recognized this issue and have been working hard to come up with their own ideas to clean trash from oceans and other bodies of water.
One of the most interesting and promising solutions has been developing since 2013 when then 19-year-old Boyan Slat first publicised his plan to clean up the world’s oceans. Slat, now 23, has created a company around this mission and this invention called the Ocean Clean Up Project.
The plan has been in development for many years, and although it was originally expected to make its first voyage in 2016, it is finally ready for beta testing in the ocean next month.
“It’s definitely exciting after five years of testing and expeditions that we finally get to launch the first system and put it to the test,” says Slat.
Slat’s invention consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Working with the flow of nature, a trash collecting array will span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel as the ocean moves through it. The angle of the booms force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from smaller forms, such as plankton, and be filtered and stored for recycling. Since nets are used instead of booms, this makes the cleanup safe for animals.
There is no doubt that plastic pollution is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by the people of the planet. According to a report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish. Right now, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.
This disturbing reality is underscored by the recent discovery of another giant patch of plastic—bigger than Mexico—floating in the South Pacific Sea. It was discovered by Captain Charles Moore, who found the North Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997.
The effects of this ocean epidemic are captured in videos of marine life being impaled, trapped or killed by plastic. One distressing video shows researchers in Costa Rica removing an entire plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle. In another video, a whale asks fishermen for help removing a plastic bag from its head and then appears to flap its fin in appreciation. One million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic debris, and up to 90 percent have plastic in their guts.
For a more in-depth conversation with Boyan Slat, check out his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience: