Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Project


Grace Davis, Contributor

On October 2, 2019, 25 year old Boyan Slat announced that System 001/B, a retrieval system, successfully collected plastic debris that was floating on the earth’s ocean. Daksha Morjaria writes, “Located between Hawaii and California, the approximately 617,763 square-mile mass of waste is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world”. From all of this waste the location is referred to as “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. The entire garbage patch is more than twice the size of texas. Before Slat decided to start the ocean cleanup project, he dreamed of being a aerospace engineer. The goal: create an environment-friendly  solution to remove all of the plastic debris in the ocean. To fix the unsolved problem, Slat came up with an idea. Daksha Morjaria informs, “It took five years, 273 models, and six prototypes before Slat’s team of 70 scientists and engineers launched the U-shaped, solar-powered System 001, or ‘Wilson,’ off the coast of San Francisco in October 2018 System 001 comprised a long floater that sat on the surface of the water and a skirt that hung beneath it. The floater provided buoyancy, while the skirt prevented debris from escaping underneath and channeled it into the retention system. A cork line above the skirt stopped over topping and kept the skirt afloat”. Though this project collected the debris it was not able to keep hold of it.

The main issue was the difference between the speed system and the plastic debris. Slat’s team spent the next year or so working on how they could solve this setback. During this time, they tested a prototype that solved the difference between the speed and debris, by creating a parachute sea anchor that permitted the plastic debris to float in the system. Although the earlier problem was solved, a new one arose: The difference between the water and the debris caused the plastic to rise and escape out of the barrier. He found a solution to this difficulty by increasing the cork line’s size. Although these problems were troubling Slat managed to fix them each time they made an appearance. Daksha Morjaria quotes Slat saying, “We now have a self-contained system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is using the natural forces of the ocean to passively catch and concentrate plastics … This now gives us sufficient confidence in the general concept to keep going on this project.” Because of Slat and his team the ocean and all that live in it can be helped or even saved. His team works alongside Slat to continue the work pertaining to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch ocean cleanup. They work to improve their device and are committed to cleaning up the garbage that we created. Slat hopes to remove 90% of debris by 2040. As humans we should not litter our trash in the ocean. Thankfully there are people like slat who will work for years to see improvement in our earth’s ocean.  Slat says, ““I think in a few years’ time when we have the full-scale fleet out there, I think it should be possible to cover the operational cost of the cleanup operation using the plastic harvested”. We also need to do our part by throwing trash away and not in the ocean!