Teenager Invents a Machine That Could Solve One of Ocean's Biggest Problems
Erin Brodwin - Mic Network
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August 9, 2014

THE OCEAN CLEANUP - What We Do (TheOceanCleanup)

Boyan Slat, a 19-year-old from the Netherlands, designed a floating structure that could mop up 70,000 metric tons of plastic — the weight of more than 300 Statues of Liberty — from the northern Pacific Ocean. Talk about being a boy genius.

The problem he's solving: We're addicted to plastic, and it's costing us. Humans produce about 300 million tons of plastic each year, enough to spawn a new type of permanent geologic rock. But most of it doesn't stick around on land — it ends up in the ocean.

In the Pacific, there's enough plastic junk to form an island the size of Texas. And our used plastic bags and bottles don't just float. When seabirds mistake bits of the waste for food they choke and die; they also become entangled in nets of discarded plastic packaging.

Over time, as plastic breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics, it becomes lethal to fish and other marine mammals by blocking up their digestive systems.

The solution: A zig-zagging wall of solid floating barriers linked by manta-ray-shaped collection platforms catch and concentrate the ocean's trash. As the trash floats, it rides ocean currents and winds toward the barriers — no additional power needed.

Slat is still working on a practical means of converting the plastic pieces into other materials later. By recycling all the materials he collects, Slat could recoup some of the costs of building and maintaining his device.

Read the rest at Mic Network

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