Kid takes on ocean pollution, invents garbage-eating sea monster

Credit: Erwin Zwart

The world's oceans are dirty. Crazy dirty. Experts estimate that there are roughly six tons of plastic debris floating in giant garbage patches all across the globe. The most famous of these is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It covers an area thought to be twice the size of the continental United States, and it's only one of five giant garbage patches out there.

That's bad. Thankfully, it's not so bad that the mind of 19-year-old Boyan Slat couldn't come up with an awesome solution. Namely to let the oceans clean themselves. With a little help from his invention: the Ocean Cleanup Array.

At first glance, the array looks like a sleek speedboat with garbage-gathering wings. Not so. The array is actually a passive device, designed to use a minimal amount of power to maintain its position atop the waves and to let the garbage come to it. Why would the garbage do that? For the same reason that the garbage patches exist in the first place: ocean currents.

Currents dubbed gyres, to be specific. Giant, swirling circular currents that collect any debris that might wander their way. The Ocean Cleanup Array would simply sit astride the radius of a gyre and let the trash wash through it — like a giant plastic-eating funnel. Awesome.

The project is still undergoing testing, with no word of whether it will ultimately work as proposed — something Slat himself makes abundantly clear. We're still hoping for the best, however. If you'd like to get involved, Slat and his team are looking for recruits and donations here.

Boyan Slat, via Inhabitat

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