Born in July 1994, Boyan Slat is a Dutch entrepreneur and inventor who uses technology to help combat global problems. In February 2013, he founded The Ocean Cleanup at a remarkably young age. The organization has since expanded to a team of around 80 people, of which Boyan is currently the CEO.
In 2018, Boyan led his team to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive vortex in the Pacific Ocean utterly loaded with pieces of floating plastic and other garbage. It is, in fact, the largest collection of plastic in all the oceans.
In their efforts to clear the mess away, The Ocean Cleanup launched its first ever plastic-cleaning device. It was a 2,000-foot U-shaped array known as “System 001,” nicknamed “Wilson.” Unfortunately, Wilson’s sensors and satellite system began to malfunction, and its collected plastic began to leak back into the garbage vortex. Although the device was still successful in clearing out some of the plastic from the vortex, and it thankfully did no environmental damage of its own, ultimately it brought back to port for repairs.
In summer of 2019, The Ocean Project tried again with a newer and better cleanup device, “System 001/B,” which used an underwater parachute to slow the device’s movement through the water, as well as inflatable bags to speed it up.
Alas, the new design ran into another problem. It used a cork line to help contain the plastic, in a similar manner to lines that divide the lanes of a swimming pool. As it turned out, the line wasn’t tall enough to prevent plastic from passing over. It will be necessary to improve upon this and make the cork line taller to ensure the device works correctly.
The Ocean Project still has not given up, and is determined to continue their clean-up efforts at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In the meantime, they have focused their efforts on clearing up river pollution. On October 26th, 2019, they unveiled their latest invention, called “The Interceptor.” Having been in development since 2015, it too is built around cleaning up plastic, capable of extracting anywhere from 50,000kg to 100,000kg of trash per day.
In fact, multiple Interceptors have been built. Two of them are already active in Jakarta (Indonesia) and Klang (Malaysia) respectively. A third Interceptor will be set up in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) while a fourth will be set up in Santa Domingo (Dominican Republic). There has also been an agreement made to set up another Interceptor near Bangkok, and an in-progress agreement for another one in LA Country (USA).
While there has been some trial-and-error, everyone at The Ocean Project deserves praise and recognition for their innovative methods and for all the hard work they’ve done to make this planet a brighter, cleaner, and safer place. We all could take some inspiration from them, both in their good cause and in their refusal to let their setbacks stop them.