It is estimated that the majority of the world’s plastic, of which hundreds of millions of kilograms are produced each year, ends up in the world’s ocean. Once in the ocean it doesn’t float around aimlessly as might be expected, but instead it ends up in 1 of 5 great ocean “gyres,” or swirling circles.
That the plastic lands in these rotating patches is a double edged sword. On one hand, it is horrible and causes a plethora of problems, but it also localizes the pollutants and gives us a place to start when cleaning up. It’s estimated that about 1/3rd of the world’s oceanic plastic pollution floats around within the great Pacific Garbage Patch (number 01 on the map above).
One young man has been working on fixing this problem for years, and now his solution stands on the brink of being applied. Boyan Slat, who started this effort at the age of 18, is famous for his riveting Ted Talk in which he unveiled his plan to clean up the polluted gyres using passive flotation devices and the ocean’s own current. Although voices initial said his project wasn’t feasible, Slat came out and had its feasibility analyzed: returning the result last year that it is feasible after all.
The genius of the plan lays in a simple question: “why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you?” The answer is simple: you don’t have to, and within the next 12 months we will see the actual cleanup begin on the high seas.