A 20-Year-Old’s Invention Could Rid the Ocean of Plastic Pollution

While most 20-year-olds are hotboxing their bathrooms and sleeping until noon, Boyan Slat is saving the world’s oceans.

The young Dutchman is the CEO of The Ocean Cleanup Project – and it’s a pretty massive deal.


Back in 2013, reports began to surface about a then-19-year-old who had created a device that had the capacity to remove 7,250,000 tonnes of plastic and garbage from the world’s oceans in just five years.

Next year, his project will come to life – and it’s already being called a major milestone.

Spanning 2,000 metres, his invention will become the longest floating structure to ever to be deployed into the ocean. Its mission is to clear our oceans of plastic pollution, with the idea that the ocean will clean itself.

The plan is to place the massive floating barriers in rotating locations around the world, and let the plastic waste naturally flow into capture. There isn’t any netting involved in the barriers, and the current will flow underneath floating booms, so ocean life will be carried though safely.

As for the plastic, it’s funneled above and concentrates at the ocean’s surface along the barriers for efficient collection and disposal.

The task at hand isn’t an easy one: each year, eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans (it pains me type that).

There is reason for optimism, though.

The company estimates that a 100-km stationary cleanup array could remove 42 per cent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over 10 years. This represents a total of 70,320,000 kilograms of plastic waste.

The structure will be initially stationed near the Japanese island of Tsushima, which lies in between Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture and South Korea. If all goes according to plan, we can expect to see more of the structures in oceans around the world.

In August, Ocean Cleanup will send 50 vessels to navigate the area between California and Hawaii to create the first hi-res map of floating plastic in the Pacific.

As for Slat, he leads a team of 100 oceanographers, naval engineers, translators, and designers, gaining strong support from key political figures.

His whole vision began with a crowdfunding campaign last year that raised $2 million – no big deal, right?

And yes, it’s OK to feel a little worse about what you were doing at 20.