Written by Maddie Caruso. ESLLC 2015-2016
Recently, a young man of 19 named Boyan Slat discovered a way to clean up our planets oceans. Every year more than 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean. These accumulate in five large current circles called gyres. Currently there are at the very least 5.25 trillion pieces of plastics in the oceans causing detrimental problems for the environment, the economy, and the health of animals and humans. Thousands and millions of marine mammals and birds die each year due to the contamination of their habitats. The plastics can also enter marine food chains, along with the toxins they absorbed along the way. This can harm the health of all of the animals in the food chain, often ending in humans.
The invention that will help to clean up these disastrous gyres uses the oceans natural currents to collect the plastics into one area. Once the plastics are moved into the same area, they would be collected and recycled back on land. Plastics will not break down by themselves and need to be extracted and recycled. The largest collection of plastic is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (1 in the picture above). Slat’s invention will be able to successfully remove the plastic if this gyre in only 20 years’ time. This invention is much more efficient and effective than any other method of ocean cleaning to date.
This is an incredible innovation and will change the way the oceans can recover from the extreme stress they are currently under. But simple removal of the plastics is not going to completely solve the problem. There needs to be an equal effort to stop the plastics from entering the oceans in the first place. This can be done through education and raising awareness of how big of an issue this is. This technology will also have potential to help clean rivers before they even reach the oceans. The oceans future is looking much less bleak, but there are still many efforts needed to make sure this problem does not worsen. Slat is hopeful that this issue can be solved, but is in a hurry to resolve it before the larger plastics break down into micro-plastics.
See his take here: https://youtu.be/5M4vIPr98gM