When he was 16 years old, on a dive in Greek waters, Boyan Slat encountered a harsh reality. The ocean he loves is already contaminated with plastic waste. He even had the impression that there were more plastic bags than fish.
After returning from there, he spent years looking for solutions to clean the sea from trash contamination.
And now, at the age of 23, the solution is almost complete. Soon Boyan Slat and his science project called "The Ocean Cleanup" are ready to clean the Pacific Ocean!
Every year about 8 million tons of trash enter the oceans. This garbage is carried by currents from the coastal areas to the high seas, accumulates in various oceans, degrades into microplastics, then becomes a serious threat to various types of organisms ranging from small fish, turtles, whales, to humans.
The biggest waste concentration point was found in the Pacific Ocean, which was later known as the Pacific Trash Vortex or the Pacific Garbage Whirlpool. This area is so vast that according to NOAA, to clean just 1 percent of it, it takes 67 units of garbage collection vessels to operate for one full year.
Besides consuming a lot of human labor, this method of "catching trash by boat" is very time consuming, fuel consuming, and requires enormous capital (estimated up to billions of dollars). Therefore, although the problem has been recognized for a long time, until now efforts to clean up Pacific trash have never been implemented.
But now the deadlock has been broken. Thanks to Boyan Slat's genius idea, the massive cleansing effort of the Pacific Ocean was finally realized in an economical, time-saving, efficient, and environmentally friendly way.
The Ocean Cleanup is an ambitious project initiated by Boyan Slat in 2013 when he was 18 years old. In this project, Boyan Slat designed a new technology in the form of a floating barrier system that can collect marine debris automatically.
To make The Ocean Cleanup project a reality, Boyan Slat has been raising funds for years. And the public response was extraordinarily positive. From 2013 until now, Boyan Slat has collected up to $ 31.5 million from various parties. The Ocean Cleanup has grown from being a personal project to become an official international foundation headquartered in Delft, The Netherlands. Until now, The Ocean Cleanup has been able to employ around 65 professional researchers.
Over the past few years, The Ocean Cleanup has conducted several research expeditions and field trials. In 2016 they installed a 100-meter long floating barrier in the North Pacific Ocean region. At the end of 2017, they tested the prototype on the West Coast of America. And in 2018, The Ocean Cleanup will start operating in the Pacific Trash Vortex area.
According to computer-calculated models, The Ocean Cleanup is projected to clean up about 50% of Pacific Garbage in just five years.
Besides developing marine waste collection technology, The Ocean Cleanup is also developing a recycling business scheme for the long term. Boyan Slat expressed this in an interview with the Nordic Business Forum in October 2017.
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