An Ocean That Cleans Itself: One 20 Year Old Raises $2 Million to Make It a Reality

Boyan Slat may only be 20 years old, but his plan to have the ocean literally “clean itself” has already raised $2 million and generated support around the globe.

In an impressive and thoughtful TedX Talk, Slat outlines his audacious idea for removing much of the 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean every year. This plastic goes on to destroy marine life and affects the global economy and public health.

Slant’s idea is to construct giant, floating barriers and then place them strategically in parts of the ocean where currents converge.

These areas, known as gyres, are scattered across the globe, and five of them are located in spots where a large percentage of these 8 millions tons of plastic finds itself.

As the currents converge at these gyres in a rotating manner, the plastic waste would accumulate within these barriers, causing the ocean to essentially roundup all that garbage without any help from machines or humans.

If you’re worried about sea life, don’t be. The barriers are designed to have the currents move underneath them. Only the light and buoyant plastic will be caught, while wildlife moves freely beneath.

Slat launched The Ocean Cleanup through a crowdfunded Kickstarter campaign only last year and managed to raise $2 million.

He says the idea came to him after a diving trip to the Azores Islands. He was shocked when he noticed the beaches were covered in plastic. Little particles of colorful debris dotted the sand as far as the eye could see.

On a separate diving trip to Greece, the young man came across more plastic bags than fish. What looked like jellyfish to his diving partner, were in fact, man-made floating bags of waste.

Instead of simply making note and moving on, Slat decided it was time to do something, and started his nonprofit, The Ocean Cleanup, with a mission to cut the amount of plastic floating in the ocean by half within a decade.

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The nonprofit is planning to place its first barrier off the coast of the Japanese island of Tsushima in 2016.

If it works as planned and the group can continue fundraising, many more may follow.

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