Boyan Slat got the idea of cleaning up the plastic trash from the world’s oceans when he was about 16 years old and saw great mounds of it while on a diving holiday. Probably not realizing that such a thing is not very easy to do, he started to work on a concept a couple of years later, in 2012, at the ripe old age of 18 or so. Fast-forward to 2016 and he has founded an organization called The Ocean Cleanup that has completed an extensive feasibility study and proof-of-concept using a 40-meter-long set of booms.
Next up in early 2016 is the deployment of a 2 km boom. Ultimately the goal is to use a boom of up to 100 km in length in areas such as the infamous zone of floating plastic trash that sits between California and Hawaii. Conservatively the area of this one patch alone (there several throughout the world’s oceans) is estimated at 700,000 sq kms. The initiative estimates that “a single 100 kilometer-long cleanup array could remove 42% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over a period of 10 years. In our most conservative estimate this amounts to over 70 million kilos of plastic, at a cleanup cost of 4.53 Euro per kilo.”
Check out his 2014 Ted Talk.