Posted by Dan Barry on

How an 18-year-old's vision is saving the ocean

What have you done to save the oceans lately? Boyan Slat just launched his 2,000-foot plastic-collecting device into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Oh, and did I mention that when he started this whole venture he was just 18?

Now 24, Boyan and his organization, The Ocean Cleanup, began their mission in 2013. After scuba diving in Greece and seeing more trash than fish, Boyan decided it was time for someone to actually do something.

And trash in our oceans is a legitimate problem. You know, there's a cool 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating around out there, harming the fish that we later eat.

 It all started with a high-school science project. As he researched, Boyan began to understand how complex the problem really is, and why viable solutions are hard to come by. Then after his high school graduation in 2012, Boyan was invited to present at a TEDx conference.

The idea didn't immediately take off. For about a year, not much happened. But then out of the (deep) blue (sea), news outlets began to pick up the TEDx video. Before they knew it, The Ocean Cleanup had a team and $90,000 in crowdsourced funding.

The rest, as they say, is history.

 But how does the thing actually work?

Good question. The whole thing is made up of a "floater", or a big metal tube, and a "skirt" that hangs below and catches debris. So, in essence, it's a giant trash trap. The thing sort of lassos around concentrations of trash and makes the pieces more able to be picked up and taken ashore for recycling. 

Still don't get it? The scientists at The Ocean Cleanup say it best. 

If successful, Boyan says his system could clean up 50% of the oceans plastics in the next 5 years. That is some serious deep cleaning. 

Feeling motivated to do your part for the environment and our oceans? You can always take a cue from The Conservation Kid and kick your water bottle habit, try to recycle as much as you can and buy products with a purpose — like these Marc Skid Save the World undies

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