It’s no secret that rampant plastic use for everyday consumption is transforming marine life in our oceans. Every year a staggering 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans. The majority of the plastic is concentrated by converging currents into 5 major spots around the world. These trash hotspots are called gyres, and they are getting so big that they are affecting the health of animals and people around the world.
The toxins released by the plastic in the ocean are absorbed by all marine life and make its way up the food chain all the way to humans. This causes increased cancer and birth defects in humans while killing approximately 1 million sea birds and over 100,000 marine animals annually.
With an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans, the idea of even attempting a clean-up seemed impossible until now. The fact that a Dutch teenager could come up with a feasible solution to cleaning up our oceans seemed even more absurd. But luckily for us this world is full of surprises…
Meet Boyan Slat, the founder and CEO of the Ocean Cleanup. At age 16, he was shocked when he went scuba diving in Greece and saw more plastic bags than fish. This experience led him to develop a brilliantly simple solution to a complex problem.
Why go out and try to clean up all the plastic in the ocean when you can let the ocean’s currents bring the floating plastic to you?
Boyan started working on his hypothesis as a high school project before he went viral with his innovative idea. It received so much praise that he dropped out of his Aerospace Engineering study to found the Ocean Cleanup. At the age of 18 he hosted a riveting Ted Talk that presented his passive cleanup concept. It exploded on the internet, receiving millions of views.
At the age of 19 Boyan lead an international team of over 100 scientists and engineers on a year-long study which came up with amazing results. Not only was his idea possible, it could eliminate 42% of the ocean’s plastic in 10 years. These results allowed Boyan to raise $2.2 million online to turn his dream into a reality.
In 2014 Boyan was awarded the 2014 United Nations Champions of the Earth award, further encouraging him to keep advancing his project.
Now the Ocean Cleanup is going full throttle and will launch their pilot program next year. They will release a 100 km long floating barrier that will trap floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The collected plastic will then be recycled into bio fuel.
If successful, this project has the capability to clean up our oceans and save millions of animal and human lives. It is incredible that one teenager came up with an idea that could impact the entire planet. This is the beauty of creativity and the fruition of Boyan’s dedication to making the world a better place.