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The Ocean Cleanup is going to have its first experimental cleanup system in Pacific waters by late 2017.

The Ocean Cleanup is going to have its first experimental cleanup system in Pacific waters by late 2017.


The Inertia

You’ve probably heard of Boyan Slat by now, the guy who wants to get the solve the ocean’s plastic problem. A few days ago, his foundation, The Ocean Cleanup, announced that they’d raised a pretty staggering $31 million. You know what that means? It means that his idea can become a reality.

Slat started The Ocean Cleanup in 2013 after he rose to environmental fame when a Ted Talk he gave blew up the internet in 2012. At the time, he was 18 years old, and his idea made so much sense that the world sat up and took notice.

The whole thing stemmed from a diving trip in Greece, where he saw more plastic than fish. He was still in secondary school but spent a year understanding why, exactly, the plastic problem was so bad. His idea is remarkably simple: using the ocean’s natural currents, a floating, v-shaped barrier collects trash and directs it towards a central point. When the central point is full, the plastic collected is picked up and brought to shore for recycling. The problem? Well, the barrier has to be not only extremely flexible but extremely long, as well.

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Since that Ted Talk, Slat’s idea excited the public. The funding, though, was a little harder to come by than the excitement. It took a few years, but The Ocean Cleanup is ready to start large-scale trials. Investors include Peter Thiel, the guy who co-founded PayPal then became the first outside investor in Facebook, and Marc and Lynne Benioff, who basically brought cloud computing to the public. “Lynne and I are thrilled to support The Ocean Cleanup’s important goal of eliminating plastic in our oceans,” said Marc Benioff,

“Lynne and I are thrilled to support The Ocean Cleanup’s important goal of eliminating plastic in our oceans,” said Marc Benioff in a press release. “With Boyan’s innovative leadership, I believe The Ocean Cleanup will have an incredibly positive impact on the future of our oceans. I hope other leaders will join us in supporting these efforts.”

The first place where The Ocean Cleanup plans on cleaning up is an obvious one. The Great Pacific Garbage patch, an area between Hawaii and California that could be larger than 1 million square miles, is just one of the places where gyres–a whole system of spinning ocean currents created by wind patterns and the Earth’s rotation–have concentrated a vast amount of plastic trash.

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According to the press release, The Ocean Cleanup is going to have its first experimental cleanup system in Pacific waters by late 2017.

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