Most people in their early twenties often reflect on their life decisions and future goals. And here is a 21-year-old boy named Boyan Slat who has set out to solve one of the greatest ecological disasters of the centuryâ€” getting rid of plastic that is filling the ocean.
Slat says he is a Dutch entrepreneur and inventor who creates technologies to tackle global issues of sustainability. He is the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup.
In June 2014, having led 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 system is projected to be deployed in Japanese waters in 2016.
Slat and his team have designed a structure that will harvest and recycle the waste plastic. He says "the main goal 'is to get out as much of the material out of there (in the ocean) for as little a budget as possible," Slat told nautil.us.
One wonders how the structure might work and withstand the great ocean currents. Here's how: the plastic collecting structure is made from a combination of polyester and steel and would float on the surface of the ocean near a gyre (which is a system of rotating currents created by wind and earth's rotation).
When plastic waste matter approaches the structure, it gets trapped by the churning currents and gets accumulated over time. "The V-shaped structure is anchored at the sea-bed with long polyester strapsâ€”every 4 kilometers. This stretches to 100 kms.
It then pushes the plastic to flow forward to its centre, where a solar-conveyed-belt stores the plastic for pickup," Slat explained, as reported by Nautilus." The first experimental model will be set-up near a gyre in Japan.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, says one of Newton's Laws of Motion. The Newton-Boyan's model to cleanse the oceans of plastic has attracted praises and drawn criticisms alike.
Two oceanographers, Mariam Goldstein and Kim Martini, reviewed the project and pin-pointed faults in it stating that it relied too much on measurements of the ocean. They said the project did not have a workable solution, according to nautil.us.
An NGO group called 5 Gyres Institute said the model did not take into consideration the floating organisms which could get caught up in the array.
The young engineer-cum inventor feels that not having formal education backing in the respective field worked in his favour.
"If I had not been that naÃ¯ve, I would have probably dismissed the whole notion within a split second," Slat said.
Slat and his team is getting ready to launch an expedition project. They will gather data on oceanic garbage during the expedition. Slat believes this is important to test the feasibility of their project.
Talking about the Japan project, Slat said the first project in Japan waters will remove almost half the plastic in the great Pacific, according to Arstechnica.
You can find out more about Slat's project at http://www.theoceancleanup.com