20-Year-Old To Clean Ocean Plastic In 2016
In 2012, 17-year-old Dutch student Boyan Slat devised a passive ocean trash collection device that would collect ocean plastic without harming the marine life. In 2013, he began leading an international team of 100 engineers and scientists to work on a machine that could clean up the ocean without affecting its beauty. By 2014, he raised $2.2 million in crowd funding.
Slat, now the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, recently announced that the world’s first ocean-cleaning system will be deployed in 2016 near Tsushima, an island between Japan and South Korea. At 1.2-miles, it would be the longest floating structure in world history.
“The array is projected to be deployed in Q2 2016. The feasibility of deployment, off the coast of Tsushima, an island located in the waters between Japan and South-Korea is currently being researched. The system will span 2000 meters, thereby becoming the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean (beating the current record of 1000 m held by the Tokyo Mega-Float). It will be operational for at least two years, catching plastic pollution before it reaches the shores of the proposed deployment location of Tsushima Island. Tsushima Island is evaluating whether the plastic can be used as an alternative energy source,” the company said in a statement.
Will the result justify the investment? Using vessels and nets to collect the plastic from one garbage patch would take about 79,000 years and tens of billions of dollars. Besides, such an operation would cause significant harm to sea life and generate huge amounts of CO2 and other emissions. The giant ocean cleanup machine could remove half the plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years, costing 33 times less money.
How is that? Slat’s idea reverses current marine cleanup methods: Instead of sending ships out to chase floating garbage, position a stationary, floating, V-shaped buffer in ocean currents so that water moves through it, funneling plastic debris into a container for capture and removal while allowing animals to swim past the net-free device.
“Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today. Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts, but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system’s efficiency and durability over time,” Slat said in a statement.
If the technology works, Ocean Cleanup hopes to build a 62-mile-long system, that would float somewhere between Hawaii and California, big enough to remove 42 percent of millions of tons of plastic in the Pacific Ocean’s trash-laden gyre in less than 10 years.
And why should you care? Some figures are self-explanatory:
- About 8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year.
- At least 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are currently in the oceans.
- Fifty-two million tons of plastic fishing nets are abandoned in the North Pacific Gyre each year.
- Plastic kills over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year.
- The animals it doesn’t kill are often left deformed.
- Plastic in the oceans costs companies across the world over $13 billion a year and the US government hundreds of millions in coastal cleanup efforts.
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