Boyan Slat is a 20-year-old from the Netherlands who believes he knows how to clean up the global ocean.
The program Slat has devised is being touted as "The Largest Cleanup In History." This passive system will collect plastic debris floating in oceans around the world.
The Ocean Cleanup will be launched in 2016, in waters between Japan and South Korea, near the island group of Tsushima. Acting as a barrier, the system will trap floating debris, allowing ships to pick up the garbage, using a conveyor belt 7,900 times faster than current methods, at just three percent of the present cost.
The device will be over 6,560 feet long, making it the longest floating structure in history. This simple barrier will spend two years in the water, catching debris before it can reach the island where it will be deployed. More than 35 cubic feet of ocean waste currently washes up on Tsushima for each of the 34,000 residents of the island. Leaders there are currently considering proposals to utilize that waste as a new source of energy.
"Taking care of the world's ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today. Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system's efficiency and durability over time," Boyan said.
The Ocean Cleanup team is planning to spend five years deploying increasingly large systems to test their technology and begin the arduous task of cleaning the water. At the end of this period, Boyan intends to launch a version of his device measuring 62.5 miles long. This barrier, set in waters between Hawaii and California, could be capable of removing around half of the floating debris found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This massive collection of waste floating in the ocean is located in two patches — the one east of Hawaii and a second located southeast of Japan.
Some environmentalists claim there are around five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the waters around the globe, enough material to fill nearly 600 typical jumbo jets.
Slat first conceived of the idea of cleaning the Pacific Ocean while he was diving off the coast of Greece when he was just 16 years old. He soon became determined to spearhead the global effort, making his intentions public in 2012.
Tsushima was once a single island but was divided into two by a canal finished in 1671, and then a second canal, built in 1900, cut the landmass into three pieces. However, the original name Tsushima usually refers to the trio of islands.