19-Year-Old’s Ocean Cleanup Array Could Clean Half the Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 Years, Study Shows

by , 06/15/14

Boyan Slat, garbage patch, Gyres, Ocean Cleanup Array, pacific garbage patch, plastic fibres, plastic foodchain, plastic recycling, TED, The Ocean Cleanup Foundation

Last year we reported on teenage inventor Boyan Slat’s plans to create an Ocean Cleanup Array that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste from the world’s oceans. His proposal for an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms received a lot of criticism – but now, just over a year later, Boyan is back with the results of a year-long investigation that shows his invention does offer a feasible method to rid the world’s oceans of plastic pollution. In fact, he claims that a single array could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years.

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The year-long study sought to determine if Boyan Slat’s array is indeed a feasible ocean cleanup method. The result? According to the independent experts who have read the full 530-page report (which is even wrapped in plastic recovered from the oceans): it is.

Slat’s proposed Ocean Cleanup Array uses natural ocean currents and winds to passively transport plastic towards an anchored collection platform. Large booms extend outwards at angles to direct debris towards the collection platform, and solid floating barriers prevent sea life from getting entangled in the array.

Boyan Slat, garbage patch, Gyres, Ocean Cleanup Array, pacific garbage patch, plastic fibres, plastic foodchain, plastic recycling, TED, The Ocean Cleanup Foundation

The study conducted many tests to see if the array was feasible, including a proof-of-concept test performed at the Azores Islands. This test measured the design’s capture and concentration potential using a floating barrier with a skirt depth of 3m (the depth at which most plastic is found). The array successfully captured floating bits of ocean plastic without catching large amounts of zooplankton. Slat explains that the captured plastic can be recycled through processes that turn it into oil.

So what are the real-world implications? Although the array still needs to be tested at full scale, Slat believes that it could actually clean up the infamous ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch.’ In fact, Slat theorizes that almost half of the plastic could be removed within ten years’ time.

Boyan Slat, garbage patch, Gyres, Ocean Cleanup Array, pacific garbage patch, plastic fibres, plastic foodchain, plastic recycling, TED, The Ocean Cleanup Foundation

One of the chief critics of Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Array is Stiv Wilson, who wrote an article for Inhabitat detailing how the Ocean Cleanup Array was a flawed design. Wilson, who is the policy director for 5Gyres, called the cleanup array a ‘fool’s errand’ and added that Slat’s ideas were ‘nothing new’. Wilson said that ‘gyre cleanup’ was a “false prophet hailing from La-La land that won’t work” and “Slat’s project is in the fairy tale phase…”

Related: The Fallacy of Cleaning the Gyres of Plastic With a Floating “Ocean Cleanup Array

In his response to Stiv Wilson and other critics, Slat said: “This week, I presented the results of a year-long study me and my 100 colleagues have been working on. The 530-page report has been authored by 70 people, and [it] concluded my concept is indeed likely a feasible and viable ocean cleanup technique. The conclusion has been peer reviewed by external experts. And because the now outdated plea by Mr. Stiv Wilson contains most arguments, I will hereby compare and contrast these arguments with what the research showed us.”

Not only does the report say that the design is sound, but patents have been filled for the boom’s unique mooring system. Whereas critics claim million of arrays would be needed, Slat points out that only one would be required to remove half the plastic in the Great Pacific Patch.

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The next step is its implimention. In a statement, Slat said, “The Ocean Cleanup will act as a facilitator for the research, outsourcing most of the fundamental research to institutes and collaborating with offshore and engineering companies to cover most of the costs. Based on this approach, The Ocean Cleanup now seeks 2 million dollars for the execution of this next phase, for which it now has announced a new crowd funding campaign.”

Slat emphasizes: “Although a cleanup will have a profound effect, it is just part of the solution. We also need to close the tap, to prevent any more plastic from reaching the oceans in the first place.”

+ The Ocean Cleanup

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  1. Laurie Blasing June 29, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    You are truly an inspiration to all that hear \”It can\’t be done!\” on a daily basis! I will encourage all to spread the word! Greetings for the USA!

  2. Troy Carney June 25, 2014 at 6:17 am


  3. Janice M. Bonser June 21, 2014 at 2:33 am

    We could go back to using, Cellophane. Cellophane is nontoxic biodegradable plastic made from the cellulose of plants using a science called, Chemurgy. The Chemurgy council was closed by the petroleum companies in 1977. The plastic we use now is made from petroleum. Cellophane windows are bullet proof. Cellulose sponges resist germs. If only we had cellulose baby diapers, we could put them in a biodigester and use them for fuel. Unfortunately we have conflicting regulations against biodigesters.

  4. Jayde Rachel Ashen June 16, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    I’m pleased that Mr Slat has not been deterred by negativity from people such as Wilson. I wish him and his team all the best, and it’s good to know that there are people who don’t take advice from the word “impossible” but instead look for what could be possible.

  5. ajdorsey June 14, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    If it works, it seems like a financially viable solution. kudos to the kid, They should mold a statue in his honor at sea world if it works out.

  6. annecelest June 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    What value is there in trying to discredit this? Why not use his knowledge and jump on board and make one and start using it. Lets face it there is nothing to lose and everything to gain, even the Oil companies could gain by harvesting this plastic and turning it into oil. It would appear that it would pay for all of it\\\’s start up costs once under way.
    Of course I also agree that the solution is to educate people on poluting, in the meantime, lets deal with what already exists.

  7. Gary Bridger June 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Am I allowed to leave links here . I will try. As I have spent 8 years here in malaysia to stop rubbish tipping, No one seems to care or think it can be done.
    Well done and you have every part of my support, may be these can be diploid world wide, to clean up after storms and disasters,

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