• Ankit Singhal

Cleaning up oceans of plastic won't take a thousand years now, thanks to this founder!

Imagine taking a dive into the ocean and coming out all covered in pieces of plastic. Such an unpleasant sight to have! The same happened with a 16-year-old boy named Boyan Slat when he went scuba diving in Greece and instead found that there was more plastic than the fish in the ocean. This is when he decided to do something about this massive problem endangering the whole ecosystem and species.

This gave birth to ‘The Ocean cleanup” in 2013, a Non-profit Organization aimed at ridding the world’s oceans of plastic, the major source of marine pollution and a threat to environment sustainability. Since then there has been no stopping this mission. The organization with a team of researchers, engineers, and scientists all went into expedition to solve the one of the biggest problems of mankind – how do we eliminate plastic from the oceans, prevent it from harming the living species on earth and causing plastic pollution. This started with understanding what kinds of plastic are where, what is the density of such plastic, where the plastic comes from into the ocean, how it travels and ends up being in the ocean. The project has been well received and supported by private organizations, governments across the world whose monetary and non-monetary support have enabled this organization to do what it aims to.

Ocean cleanup in action

Undertaking several sub-projects the team has found out that one of the biggest sources of plastic in oceans is rivers. From rivers the plastic enters the oceans and hence polluting the oceans. It also found that majority of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the floating plastic. Pieces of plastic break up into smaller pieces with size 0.05 to 0.5 cm (called micro plastic) which are mistaken as food by marine life and ultimately end up in food chain of humans who consume fish. This has a disastrous effect on humans and marine animals as these chemicals can cause irreparable damage to bodies.

Microplastics are mistaken for food by marine life which end up in food chain

After countless hours of research and work, the team has invented a passive system which is much cost-effective where instead of having to go the plastic to collect, the plastic will automatically come up to the system to be collected. The passive system uses natural flow of currents, air to collect the plastic as majority of the plastic in the ocean floats on the surface. Just like you lay the net to catch the fish, the system uses a combination of a floater (which floats on the surface of ocean) to collect the debris and skirt which hangs beneath to prevent the debris from escaping. The team’s first task is to remove the Great Pacific Garbage Patch then to move to removing other garbage patches across the world while at the same time stopping the garbage from rivers to enter oceans through their Interceptor technology. The success of this project could be attributed to the project still being in operation for around 7 years with launch of improved versions of systems for better efficacy and efficiency.

You might wonder, what would they do with all the collected plastic, dump it? Absolutely not! They are coming up sooner with products made of the collected plastic so the plastic does not end up in the landfill. They are removing the plastic from oceans, preventing the plastic from entering the ocean and reusing the collected plastic.

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