When scuba diving in the Mediterranean, 24-year-old Boyan Slat was surprised to find more plastic than fish. Now, seven years later, Slat has received both financial and engineering backing to build his vision for a large-scale system to collect plastic rubbish. Aptly named The Ocean Cleanup, the initiative has raised almost AU$50million (US$35m) in donations from supporters including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Theil.
The collection system is a 600m long tube with a 3m deep submerged screen that will float in a giant U-shape, drifting with ocean currents. Designers aim to trap 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and transport the material to the mainland for recycle.
Engineers designed the device to withstand harsh conditions, and it will operate without motors or machinery that could impact marine life. The project however has sceptics. The Marine Conservation Society says that while the vision is inspired, there are risks posed to sea creatures who may get trapped.
The team remains optimistic, and the first major system will be deployed off the coast of California to test the device’s potential.
Image: The Ocean Cleanup press release
This story is taken from the 14 August 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.