Ingenious 19-year-old Develops Plan to Clean up Oceans in 5 Years

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By: Amanda Froelich,

True Activist.

With millions of tons of garbage dumped into the oceans annually and repeat incidence of oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, it’s the Ocean which has taken the brunt of unsustainable methods from man. In effect, it’s estimated almost 100,000 marine animals are killed due to debris entanglement and continually rising pollution.

To a degree, individual lessening of consumerism and utilizing sustainable methods to re-use and eliminate waste is very beneficial. However, reducing the already-toxic state of the Earth is the biggest concern of environmentalists and engineers, seeking to utilize the technological advances already available. To this avail, it was 19-year-young Boyan Slat that ingeniously created the Ocean Array Plan, a project that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic from the world’s oceans in just five years.

Slat’s idea consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Working with the flow of nature, his solution to the problematic shifting of trash is to have the array span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel as the ocean moves through it. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from smaller forms, such as plankton, and be filtered and stored for recycling. The issue of by-catches, killing life forms in the procedure of cleaning trash, can be virtually eliminated by using booms instead of nets and it will result in a larger areas covered. Because of trash’s density compared to larger sea animals, the use of booms will allow creatures to swim under the booms unaffected, reducing wildlife death substantially.

Economically, the Ocean Array Project also rises to the top due to its sustainable construct; it’s completely self-supportive, by receiving energy from the sun, currents, and waves. By also letting the platforms’ wings sway like an actual manta ray, contact with inlets in the roughest weather can be ensured. It’s a plan that merges environmental safety with thoroughly thought out processes.

Inspired to tackle global issues of sustainability, Boyan began by launching a project at school that analyzed the size and amount of plastic particles in the ocean’s garbage patches; his final paper went on to win several prizes, including Best Technical Design 2012 at the Delft University of Technology. Continuing the development of his concept during the summer of 2012, he revealed it several months later at TEDxDelft2012.

Slat took his well-planned project further by then founding The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-profit organization responsible for the development of proposed technologies. Aside from saving thousands of animals and reducing chemicals (like PCB and DDT) from building up in the food chain, it could also save millions of dollars a year due to clean-up costs, lost tourism, and damage to marine vessels. His undeterred passion to create healthier oceans has possibility to beneficially impact the lives of the entire world.

Although extensive feasibility studies are currently being conducted, it has been estimated that through the selling of plastic retrieved over the five years, the money would surpass the initial cost to execute the project. In other words, it may even be potentially profitable. Because the main deterrent to implement large scale cleanup projects is due to the financial cost, this solution could perhaps pave ways for future innovations of global cleanup to also be invented.

While¬†the project process would take five years, it’s a span that could continue to increase the world’s awareness of garbage patches, as well as the importance of recycling and reducing consumption of plastic packaging.

To find out more about the project and to contribute, click here.

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Boyan Slat


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187 Responses to "Ingenious 19-year-old Develops Plan to Clean up Oceans in 5 Years"

  1. Roger  September 28, 2013 at 3:02 am

    That’s providing we have lake-like-calm waters and this just takes care of floaters. What about all the stuff that remains at the bottom of the ocean?

    • AKyle Colley  February 3, 2014 at 4:34 am

      ur a douchebag…..guess what….maybe his idea wont clean the crap u helped put on the bottom of the ocean…..but i dont see u coming up with any ideas or even picking up a damned can from the ocean….so all in all…even if his idea totally flopped…..he still did better than you

  2. RobbieD  September 28, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Never to be heard of again?

  3. Dennis Williams  September 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    The reason bright young inventors can come up with all these wonderful
    world saving devices & strategies is they haven’t been exposed to enough bitter, negative, and jealous old people….just give the kids a little time, they’ll come around.

  4. Debra Vronch  September 29, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    It’refreshing to see such passion in a young person. His proposal appears to feasible and i hope and pray that it doesn’t fall by the wayside. Kudos to you young man, not only for your passion to reduce the destructive pollution in our oceans, but for using that passion to develope a way that could save many innocent lives. Now if we could just figure out how to get the masses to cut their usage of such harmful materials.

  5. Don Austen  October 1, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Who pays for this and does he realize that the oceans consist of 7,848,000 sq. miles of surface water? If he built 7,848 devices, each one would need to cover 1000 sq. miles. (roughly the size of New York state. If each one of these cost $1 million, which seems likely, the total cost would be nearly $8 billion. Go fund that on KIckstarter.

    • Bast Hotep  October 3, 2013 at 2:06 am

      Do you really think the state of New York is only 33 miles across?

    • Richard  February 6, 2014 at 2:47 am

      If you read the article, the booms would be placed in select areas that have been identified to contain large amounts of plastics that have formed “garbage patches”. They are not suggesting covering the entire surface of all oceans. You wouldn’t be able to use the oceans for shipping if that were the case. As for all of the other more negative naysayers, lets see your design. Thought so.

  6. Randy Hilarski  October 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I love it, can we start here off the coast of Panama!

  7. Little Feather  October 12, 2013 at 7:11 am

    This is one INTELLIGENT and respectful 19 yr old!

  8. Jo  October 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I’m sure Obama’s administration can budget it in somewhere ;)

  9. Bill Jackson  October 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Appears to be naively impractical
    – Floating plastic is actually tiny bits scattered through the top hundred meters or so of the ocean surface. It isn’t primarily bottles floating conveniently on the surface.
    – Zooplankton don’t swim, they float with the current. They’d be picked up with the plastic and they are too delicate to survive being separated out. Do we want to kill the plankton in an area the size of the continental United States?

    There are dozens more reasons why none of these great-ideas-on-paper can work.
    Sorry, it just doesn’t work. We just have to stop putting it in there. For a start, we can stop buying those stupid plastic bottles of water. If you buy those, please don’t pretend to be an environmentalist.

  10. Russell Harvey  November 26, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    We don’t have to cover all of the ocean, only certain areas.

  11. Mary  February 3, 2014 at 12:25 am

    To all those who want to criticize what this young is working on, at least he is concerned about the future of this planet and willing to create ideas that can potentially help. What are you doing? Why not, perhaps, expand upon the idea. Come up with ways to make it better. Generate ideas, offer encouragement…….something other than speaking negatively. Bless our youth, for they are receiving a planet we successfully damaged.


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