Boyan Slat is a 20 year old Dutch inventor, entrepreneur and aerospace engineering student who works on methods of cleaning plastic waste from the oceans. He designed a passive system for concentrating and catching plastic debris driven by ocean currents. This won a prize for Best Technical Design at Delft University of Technology and he has established a foundation — The Ocean Cleanup — to further develop and eventually implement the technology. Initially, there was little interest but, since his TEDx talk, How the Oceans can Clean Themselves, went viral, he has attracted thousands of volunteers and $2M of funding for pilot installations. He gave this TEDx talk when he was just 17 years old by the way!!!
I saw his TEDx talk a couple years ago, and decided to do some googling for this post. Turns out, he is deploying his first ocean cleaning system in 2016!! So exciting!
C. Bullet Answers
1. Global/National/Local/Personal Impacts
Global: The company said that within five years, after a series of deployments of increasing scale, it plans to deploy a 100km-long system between Hawaii and California to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is big!!! This is important!! This is so dang exciting!!!
National: Is this technology going to be something that finally sets people over the edge? If we start seeing the massive amounts of plastic waste (physical evidence) will it finally get the message across to world about what we’re REALLY doing to our planet? Or will we ever change?
Local: Could something like this be created for lakes, i.e. Minnesota lakes?
Personal: I think this is such a magnificent invention and I’m so glad it didn’t die after his TEDx talk. The power of the internet and of the media is so apparent in this case. Who knows if this would have come to fruition if Boyan hadn’t given his speech on TEDx? Who knows if he would have gotten all those donations? This story makes me feel hopeful and proud of humanity, science, and perseverance.
2. Impact over time Short term/long term
Short term: The pilot program will be operational for at least two years in the proposed deployment location of Tsushima island in Japan, where approximately one cubic meter of plastic pollution per person is washed up each year. If the pilot program is a great success, hopefully more of these ocean cleaning systems will be created and deployed elsewhere.
Long term: What if there was an air cleaning system similar to Boyan’s invention? Air balloons that took all the toxins out and used those toxins for energy somehow? Wind farms that created energy while simultaneously taking pollution out of the air? If Boyan’s invention is a great success we could see more money going towards sustainability inventions and creation!
3. Positive Outcome: Clean oceans! A happier earth! Happier people! Less sickness!
4. Negative Outcome: What if the cleaning system does not work and therefor discourages people from ocean cleaning? Could it potentially hurt fish or coral reefs? Are there any other negative side affects of this machinery we don’t know about and won’t know about until it’s too late? That’s the danger of technology isn’t it…
5. Lens/Region of the Future : Super tech - Limit Tech, Bio-tech - Human Tech / Social Tech