The inspiring ambitions of Boyan Slat – Can this 24 year old really rid the world’s most polluted oceans of plastic waste?

When diving in waters just off the coastline of Greece at the age of 17, Boyan Slat noticed that there was more plastic in the sea than there were fish. The unsettling experience provoked many hours of thought, and, believing he had found a possible solution to the problem of cleaning up thousands of tonnes of plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), he dropped out of university during his first year to bring his dream to fruition. In 2012 the young, inspiring visionary gave a talk at a TEDx event – which went viral.

What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Watch – the GPGP explained

Since then, the world has been watching his progress with much interest, and for good reason: Slat believes that his ocean clean-up system could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years. The GPGP lies between California and the island of Hawaii. It is the largest oceanic collection of plastic waste, formed by rotating ocean currents.

It may seem impossible, but even some of the plastic we all throw away here in SA has landed up in the vortex (one of five or possibly six worldwide), and its effects on marine life have already been catastrophic. This is to say that Slat’s vision, if successful, would save innumerable ocean species painful and premature deaths – all the while protecting humans, too. Slat’s research unearthed the fact that the GPGP, by debris weight, is up to 16 times larger than previously thought, and covers an area that equals the size of SA and Zimbabwe combined. Moreover, it contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic.

Watch – Slat’s revolutionary design

Some are sceptical

Many oceanographers and scientists are sceptical that his engineering solution will work, however, and would prefer all citizens of the world, along with businesses and governments, to focus on prevention rather than cure:

  • single use plastic should be banned;
  • all plastic should be recycled or reused, and;
  • waste management chains should ensure that plastic debris never ends up in the environment or waterways.

Slat certainly doesn’t disagree that these measures are necessary, but he is nonetheless confident that the clean-up system will work, and that it’ll present a major step in the right direction regarding the problems plastic waste has already caused.

We’re about to find out if it works

Watch – The clean-up system is almost ready to set sail

The great news is that on 08 September 2018, Slat will be launching the first of 60 clean-up systems in the GPGP (each 0.6 km in length). This launch is for testing purposes, but he predicts that it’ll remove 5 tonnes of plastic by year’s end. For the sake of our planet and generations to come, let’s hope that the already mind-blowing work of this young and passionate environmentalist will produce the results he so ardently desires.

Follow Boyan Slat’s official Ocean Cleanup website or Twitter account.

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