This 22-Year-Old Wants to Rid the Pacific of Plastic

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be tackled in the first half of 2018


 (Rich Carey /

Dutch inventor Boyan Slat likes to dream big. When Slat was only 19 he came up with the idea of a series of floating booms and processing platforms designed to collect floating plastic rubbish. Fast forward three years and Slat's ingenious concept has become reality with the first cleanup mission of his nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup, ready to launch within the next year.

"Instead of late 2020, the cleanup will now start in just 12 months from now, and parts of it are already in production," the 22-year-old said. Slat's design includes “anchors” 600 meters below the water surface that will ground the plastic collecting systems in heavily polluted areas. The floating booms will then to collect trash and debris from the surface like a net.

"These systems will automatically drift or gravitate to where the plastic is," Slat says. "Instead of us being able to clean up 42% of the patch in 10 years, we can now clean up 50% of the patch in five years."

The nonprofit has raised $31.5 million from donors, who believe it will significantly decrease the plastic in the oceans. Many scientists hope Slat’s invention will raise awareness for the state of our waters and how it affects wildlife as well.

Nancy Wallace, director of the Marine Debris Program at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told the Associated Press that the more people who hear of this issue, the better. “The more people are aware of it, the more they will be concerned about it," she said. "My hope is that the next step is to say 'what can I do to stop it?' and that’s where prevention comes in,” Wallace told AP.

What started as a dream of an ambitious engineering student could actually be a viable solution to quickly cleaning up our polluted oceans and bringing humanity back on a green path.

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