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Giant Ocean Cleanup project readies for launch

Ocean Cleanup
The Ocean Cleanup prototype will launch in Dutch waters in June. Here, a 40-meter long trial barrier is set up in Rotterdam. Photo: Courtesy of Ocean Cleanup

The founder of the Ocean Cleanup project, Boyan Slat, has a very ambitious goal … to clean the ocean of plastic.

He has been working on a prototype for a low-cost solution to the pollution problem plaguing the seas.

Instead of sending out boats to collect plastic — which doesn’t break down — Slat hopes to use the ocean’s currents to his advantage.

“The oceanic currents moving around is not an obstacle,” Slat told The Washington Post. “It’s a solution. Why move through the oceans if the oceans can move through you? … Let the rotating currents do their work.”

Ocean Cleanup
Boyan Slat began his mission to clean the ocean of plastics after scuba diving in Greece. He said he saw more plastic bags then fish. Photo: Courtesy of Ocean Cleanup

Currently, the 21-year-old is working to build a giant angled barrier in which the currents flow through, depositing plastic trash into a collection zone.

The scientific community and conservationists’ eyes are all on Slat’s project which will launch in June.

Slat has been working feverishly on the project for years, building a company and funding it through crowdsourcing. He and his team raised $2 million to fund the prototype from thousands of people across the globe last September.

However, he has some critics, some claiming that he is naive.

Ocean Cleanup
A multi-level trawl measures the depth of plastic’s reach. Photo: Courtesy of Ocean Cleanup
Yet Slat said the way innovation works is through trial and error, using the Wright brothers as examples.

“The reason why the Wright brothers were successful wasn’t because they had the most resources, but because they understood how invention works. You have to iterate quickly, and you should be prepared to fail. Because things often don't go as planned,” Slat said.

The prototype will launch off the coast of the Netherlands in June and will focus on the effects of ocean conditions.

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