Boyan Slat is the Geek Cleaning up the World’s Oceans
Aged 16 Boyan Slat was scuba diving in Greece, when he noticed something – that there were more plastic bags than fish. This is when he first thought to himself, how he could solve the problem.
Back at school, he decided to work on his problem, of cleaning up the worlds oceans, on his school project. Everyone told him it would be impossible, but like all true geeks. He wasn’t put off. He just worked harder. Enrolling at Delft University, as an aerospace student, he made the realisation that he couldn’t work on both his beloved project or his engineering degree.
It was, of course, a hard decision to make, but with his parents’ support he chose to save the oceans.
All images used in this article are thanks to The Ocean Cleanup website.
Boyan Managed to Crowdfund $2 Million Dollars
After writing to 300 companies and getting 1 negative reply, Boyan could have easily given up. Not one to be put off so easily he decided to opt for crowdfunding to raise the money to get the company off the ground. The campaign was a phenomenal success. The 2 million dollars raised made it one of the most successful non-profit crowdfunding projects ever.
Not only did they reach this amazing amount, but they did it in only 100 days thanks to the kindness of 38,000 funders from over 160 countries. This is testament to how much people love the world’s oceans and the animal life that relies on them remaining pollution free.
The first batch of funding enabled Boyan’s team to start data logging research on the state of the Great Pacific garbage patch and on engineering prototypes of the collection vessels.
That initial amount of $2 million is now an amazing $40 million, after five years of incredibly hard work spreading the message of The Ocean Cleanup Project.
Plastic Waste is a Huge Threat to Our Oceans
Ghost nets are possibly the most vivid example of the problem that Boyan Slat’s The Ocean Cleanup is attempting to tackle. Old fishing nets, either lost at sea or discarded by reckless fisherman, catch unwitting fish, sharks and turtles, and their dead bodies are left to rot in this entangled mess. It’s a disturbing scene that shows the human race at its worst.
Thankfully there are people who want to change this situation so badly they’re prepared to put their careers and reputations on the line to do so. We can only applaud their bravery, ingenuity and selflessness.
How Does the The Ocean Cleanup Project Work?
According the The Ocean Cleanup project the Great Pacific garbage patch is 1.6 million square kilometres. It is hard to see from a plane because, contrary to the public image of horrific pictures of islands of rubbish, the vast majority of plastic is distributed in a low-density across huge areas of water. Together, though, they add up to thousands of tonnes of plastic waste.
The original engineering design proposed collection devices tethered to the sea bed, but because of the depth of the pacific ocean it was a nigh-on impossible task. Not only the cost of steel cables, but maintenance problems and stress on the lines, it was decided that the simplest and cheapest solution was to use a flotation only concept.
Boyan credits the free-floating idea to two design students. The final design was decided upon in 2017 and construction commenced early 2018 and was deployed at the back end of the year.
The anchor is dropped in deep water that is flowing slower than at the surface. It is the difference in speed that enables the ‘drogue’ to catch water particles flowing by. It is like all ingenious designs, made more effective by its simplicity. Ships then collect the plastic and it can be recycled in manufacturing plants. Not only does this save money, but it stops plastic particles, known as microplastics, from getting into the food chain, where it works its way up to our dinner plates. This is toxic to all animal species and can cause untold health problems, such as cancer and poisoning.
The Ocean Cleanup Project Media Gallery
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