Young Dutchman to test ambitious ocean cleanup project

The Ocean Cleanup's floating structures use currents to clean the world's oceans. Image courtesy of The Ocean Cleanup.

An ambitious project has been launched which aims to cleanup large amounts of plastic pollution from the world’s oceans.

Lead by Dutchman Boyan Slat, the project envisages the use of huge floating structures to trawl plastic waste from the ocean.

The idea behind this method was first developed by Boyan Slat in his final year of high school for a class project. He then went on to do further research into the feasibility of his concept, and drew significant attention during a TED talk in 2012 where he laid out his plans.

Primarily, his design involves using floating structures powered by the ocean’s own currents in order to remove millions of tons of floating waste centred around five rotational currents called ‘gyres’ located within major oceans.

Since his plan was initial unveiled, it continued to develop, and now has morphed into a team of researchers and engineers working to solve this problem of ocean pollution.

Called ‘The Ocean Cleanup’ they are working towards a tight schedule in order to begin the full-scale cleanup of the world’s oceans by 2020.

Once this process has begun The Ocean Cleanup believes that it will only take around 5 years to remove most of the floating plastic in the five gyres. They also believe that they can recycle the plastic which they retrieve at a profit.

Pilot project announced

The next 12 months will be critical for the success of Slat’s project, with 2 large-scale development steps planned.

Among these, the first is a massive survey in August of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, using 50 vessels, in order to determine its true size.

Then, in mid 2016, The Ocean Cleanup will begin their first pilot project – a demonstrator floating structure of the coast of Tsushima Island located in the waters between Japan and South Korea.

At 2000m long, this will be the largest floating structure ever built, and will aim to prevent thousands of cubic meters of plastic pollution from washing up on the island’s beaches annually.

“[The cleanup array] 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,” explained The Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat.