Every year, we throw millions of tons of plastic into the ocean. Most of it is thrown into rivers, which lead to the sea. A huge amount of this plastic ends up in gyres – vortexes of circular currents – and eventually it all clumps together in vast floating ocean dumps. This, of course, is bad. But Boyan Slat and his project, fittingly named The Ocean Cleanup, have a plan, and on October 20, the second version of the ocean cleanup devices reached proof of technology.
Slat and his team spent years developing the first vessel, called System 001. After nearly seven years of fundraising, Slat’s idea had raised some $31 million and stolen the hearts of millions around the world who wanted to see our oceans finally rid of the plastic scourge. Financial supporters included 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.
On September 8, 2018, the enormous ocean cleaner weighed anchor from San Francisco Bay. It was a test run of sorts, as all good science requires, and it was heading about 300 miles off shore for a two-week trial. If all went well, it would head to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and begin collecting the plastic that has accumulated there.