16 Billion Pounds of Ocean Garbage

That’s how much a 19-year-old whiz kid says his device could remove in five years.

The Ocean Cleanup

A 19-year-old whiz kid says this device, if built, could remove billions of pounds of garbage from the ocean.Courtesy The Ocean Cleanup

Boyan Slat, a Dutch 19-year-old who studies aerospace engineering at the Delft University of Technology, has a new idea for cleaning up the great garbage patches that mar the world’s oceans. He has founded a group called The Ocean Cleanup to study his idea, which he says not only could solve the garbage problem — but also might turn a profit.

His concept is pretty simple (as so many genius ideas turn out to be). Instead of using boats and nets to troll the garbage patches and collect the waste with nets, Slat instead wants to build a processor that is anchored to the seafloor and stationary. From it, he wants large booms to extend the length of the major garbage patches, working like funnels that use natural currents and drift to push the garbage into the processor.

“Why move through the oceans if the oceans can move through you?” he asks on The Ocean Cleanup website.

The booms also offer an advantage over trolling nets, he says, because they would be at the surface and thus snag virtually zero by-catch. Slat also thinks his device could be profitable by re-selling the plastic collected.

A team of about 50 engineers, modelers, experts and students is now doing a feasibility study, and so far the results look promising. A crowd-funding campaign is being used to pay for that study. Results are expected in a few months. Stay tuned or visit www.boyanslat.com to learn more.