Teen’s Ocean Cleanup Concept Lets Currents Do the Work

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Trying to wrap your head around the amount of trash that’s currently floating in the world’s oceans is no easy feat, especially since it just keeps growing and growing. Researchers disagree on the best way to tackle the problem without doing more harm to the wildlife that’s currently affected by the plague of manmade waste, but one teenager has an idea that uses the ocean currents to collect the trash.

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Boyan Slat got the idea when he was just six years old, diving in Greece and witnessing a lot of floating trash firsthand. When he returned home to the Netherlands, he began a project that he would work on for years to come. Now, at 19, Slat has produced working prototypes of his idea and dropped out of university to pursue it full-time. The concept uses an array of floating barriers anchored to the sea bed to catch and concentrate debris, moving it toward a platform where it can be removed from the water. The current – and sea life – passes beneath the barriers, eliminating the danger of nets. Once collected, then plastic trash would be recycled.

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Currently, ocean trash is so spread out, attempting to gather it manually would take far too much time and cost too much money. But after Slat gave a TedX talk on his concept, the project went viral, raising $80,000 in 15 days. He was able to a assemble a team of 100 people around the world to perform a feasibilitys tidy on the gyre known as the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, where the platform is expected to be built in 2020. Learn more at Slat’s foundation, The Ocean Cleanup.