A young entrepreneur is working on a large-scale solution to cleaning most of the world’s ocean trash.
Boyan Slat started The Ocean Cleanup project in his home country of the Netherlands when he was just 18. Now age 25, he has led his company to a major milestone— they just brought back their first successful haul of ocean debris to land.
Slat and the Ocean Cleanup made the announcement on Dec. 12. It has been focusing on part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge range of ocean twice the size of Texas containing an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of garbage.
You can watch a video from The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube page explaining how the trash catchment system works below. It basically creates an artificial coastline that draws in debris by utilizing wind, waves and current. The free-floating U-shaped “net” that results brings trash to a support vessel that takes it out of the ocean without hurting any marine life.
The Ocean Cleanup system was first deployed in 2018 but had issues and had to be brought back in and tinkered with before being sent out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in summer 2019. The system was successful this time around, bringing back to shore 60 huge cubic-meter bags of plastic. But there is still work that needs to be done in making the technology better and faster.
“Our goal is to clean up 50% of the Garbage Patch in five years,” Slat told Fast Company. “For that, we’re going to need a whole fleet of them, and the systems need to be bigger than the ones that we have trialed so far.”
You can see some of the debris gathered from The Ocean Cleanup’s catchment system below.
The Ocean Cleanup’s ultimate goal is to reduce ocean plastic by 90% by the year 2040.
Slat says that to make the project sustainable long-term, his goal is to figure out a way to convert the reclaimed plastic into high-quality products that can be sold to fund future clean-ups. He hopes to start selling recycled ocean plastic items in Sept. 2020.
The Ocean Cleanup has also begun focusing on catching debris in some of the world’s most polluted rivers in an effort to stop the garbage from ever getting to the ocean. Slat shared an image of one of the river “Interceptors” in action in Malaysia.
Interceptor 002 at work in Klang, Malaysia. Was amazing to see it in reality! pic.twitter.com/7xXoYojgzX
— Boyan Slat (@BoyanSlat) November 5, 2019