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The Ocean Cleanup
Meet Boyan Slat… the 21-year-old Dutch entepreneur and inventor who creates technologies to tackle global issues of sustainability. He is the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, where he is responsible for overall strategy and cleanup technology development.
Instead of going after the plastic, Boyan devised a system though which, driven by the ocean currents, the plastic would concentrate itself, reducing the theoretical cleanup time from millennia to mere years. In February 2013 he dropped out of his Aerospace Engineering study to start The Ocean Cleanup.
In June 2014, having lead an international team of 100 scientists and engineers for a year, the concept turned out to be ‘likely a technically feasible and financially viable’ method to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years’ time. A subsequent crowd funding campaign then raised close to $2.2m, enabling the organization to start the pilot phase. The first 2000 m system is projected to be deployed in Japanese waters in 2016.
Boyan Slat has been recognized as one of the 20 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs Worldwide (Intel EYE50), and was crowned 2014 Champion of the Earth, the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade. In 2015, HM King Harald of Norway awarded Boyan the maritime industry’s Young Entrepreneur Award, and Foreign Policy magazine included Boyan in their 2015 list of Global Thinkers.
The Ocean Cleanup has been recognized as one of the Designs of the Year by the London Design Museum, is recipient of the 2015 INDEX Design Award, won Fast Company’s 2015 Innovation by Design award, and has been chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 25 best inventions of 2015.On August 23, 2015, The Ocean Cleanup successfully concluded the Mega Expedition with the arrival of a first group of vessels including the fleet’s 171ft mothership in the port of San Francisco. Using a series of measurement techniques, including trawls and aerial surveys, the fleet of close to 30 vessels sampled the concentration of plastic during its month-long voyage through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is in preparation for the large-scale cleanup of the area, set to begin in 2020.
The Mega Expedition’s primary goal is to accurately determine how much plastic is floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, by executing the largest ocean research expedition in history. This was also the first time large pieces of plastic, such as ghost nets and Japanese tsunami debris, have been quantified.
“I’ve studied plastic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as polluted as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Dr. Julia Reisser, Lead Oceanographer at The Ocean Cleanup. “With every trawl we completed, thousands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic.”
Although the samples collected during the expedition still have to be analyzed, preliminary findings indicate a higher-than-expected volume of large plastic objects floating in the ocean.
This underscores the urgency of The Ocean Cleanup’s mission to clean it up, according to CEO and founder Boyan Slat: “The vast majority of the plastic in the garbage patch is currently locked up in large pieces of debris, but UV light is breaking it down into much more dangerous microplastics, vastly increasing the amount of microplastics over the next few decades if we don’t clean it up. It really is a ticking time bomb.”
During today’s press conference, Boyan announced that The Ocean Cleanup was able to conduct the Mega Expedition thanks to major financial contributions from entrepreneur-philanthropists, including Salesforce chairman, CEO and founder Marc Benioff: “Protecting the oceans should be a priority for all of Earth’s citizens. The Ocean Cleanup is taking an innovative approach to preserving one of our most critical resources and raising visibility of this global challenge.”