When a 16-year-old Dutch teenager went diving off the coast of Greece, he was disgusted by the amount of plastic in the ocean. For Boyan Slat, the trip was a turning point. He was determined to rid the ocean of plastic.
Six years later, Slat is ready to launch an invention to do just that.
A floating trash collector
Slat and a team of people at his foundation, The Ocean Cleanup, have created a series of floating booms and screens that move around the ocean acting like a coastline that traps trash.
Large anchors keep the booms down, but allow them to move with the ocean currents. There’s a test model off the coast of the Netherlands, and so far, no marine life has been affected.
The “floating curtain” arches across a 0.6-mile span of water in a U-shape, according to USA Today. Trash swirls to the center and is held until ships come and remove the plastic, which will likely happen once a month.
Slat, who dropped out of college to pursue this invention full time, has collected $320 million in donations and plans to use the funding to deploy 50 floating trash collectors at various points in the ocean next year.
The floating trash bins have a big job to do. The ocean has an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic floating around, and that number is only growing. If Slat’s invention lives up to the hype, it could remove 50% of the plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Ocean Patch in just five years.
How you can help keep plastic out of the ocean
Americans consume a lot of plastic, and most of the time it’s used once before it’s thrown out. Just a fraction – 6% – of plastic is actually recycled. The rest ends up in landfills or in the ocean, where trash has become such a problem that multi-million dollar devices are needed to clean it up.
While Slat’s invention has the potential to remove millions of pounds of garbage, plastic will continue to be thrown away. To curb the problem, consumers must take action.
How refill technology works
Consumers don’t have to buy laundry detergent containers over and over again. Instead, you can take a refillable bottle to your local retailer and fill it up at a refill station.
And it’s not just for laundry detergent. Just about anything that comes in a plastic container – lotions, detergent, etc – can all be refilled.
Consumers bring in their bottle, place it in a refill station, select the product they want and the machine washes, fills and seals the bottle. All retailers have to do is add a refill station, but they’re hesitant to do so.
Consumers bring in their bottle, place it in a refill station, and the refill station does the rest. The station knows what product to refill, how much to refill, and the bottle stays sealed and clean during the process. (And you can save money.) All retailers have to do is add a refill station, but they’re hesitant to do so.
While Slat’s garbage collectors pull plastic waste from the ocean, you can make efforts to keep it from ever hitting the water in the first place.