The human population has an addiction to plastics, and it is a habit that sends tons of debris into the ocean each year. While governments and nonprofits have been struggling to find a solution to our marine mess, a 19-year-old aerospace engineering student at TU Delft has invented a device to help remove plastic pollution. Boyan Slat is the mind behind the Ocean Cleanup Array, a project that would combine large floating booms with anchored processing platforms that could gather debris for processing and recycling. Networks of these systems could be placed around floating garbage patches around the world, potentially being able to remove 7,250,000 tons of rubbish in five years. The array would be powered by the ocean’s currents, allowing marine life enough time to escape and avoid becoming trapped along with the plastics.
Slat’s design currently only exists on paper, but has already won such awards as Best Technical Design 2012 at the Delft University of Technology. He also presented his concept at TedXDelft last year, and has since founded a non-profit to take the idea from imagination to implementation. At the moment, the Foundation is seeking financial backing as well as support for its scientific research. While the Ocean Cleanup Array would not be able to remove the total amount of trash we dump into our waters each year, it is an encouraging step towards reversing our petroleum footprint. Along with a shift in how we produce and dispose of our materials, the global community can begin to turn the tide on how we treat our ocean ecosystems.