The big plastic oceanic mess we made has been left to the next generation. The next generation is doing something about it.
18-year-old Boyan Slat combines environmentalism, entrepreneurism and technology to tackle global issues of sustainability. After diving in Greece, and coming across more plastic bags than fish, he wondered; “why can’t we clean this up?”
While still being on secondary school, he then decided to dedicate half a year of research to understand plastic pollution and the problems associated with cleaning it up.
This ultimately led to his passive clean-up concept, which he presented at TEDxDelft 2012.
Working to prove the feasibility of his concept, Boyan Slat currently gives lead to a team of approximately 50 people, and temporarily quit his Aerospace Engineering study to completely focus his efforts on The Ocean Cleanup.
The progress of The Ocean Cleanup can be followed through www.theoceancleanup.com, www.facebook.com/TheOceanCleanup, as well as www.twitter.com/TheOceanCleanup.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
After sailing for two and a half days, the 15th of June marked the day we were finally taking the multilevel trawl out for its first deployment. By now we had entered the high concentration area of the North Atlantic Gyre. The frequency of large object floating along the boat was one indication, and finding micro-plastics in the boat’s saltwater pump was another.
With wind conditions of around Beaufort five, handling the 5.5m-long aluminum frame was a challenge, but created the prospect of collecting samples in conditions not seen during the four preceding expeditions. We successfully deployed the trawl twice that day, before catching up on sleep and preparing the equipment for the next day of trawling.
Today, with a now experienced crew and a comfortable 15 knot-wind, three back-to-back trawls were performed, each around an hour in length. Lots of millimetre to centimetre-sized particles were visible in the samples of the top few nets. Team member Francesco is currently working with some volunteers to clean the nets’ cod ends and prepare the samples for transportation.
Besides the in-situ plastic measurements we’re taking, we’re using a device called a CTD to measure things like conductivity, salinity and temperature, which helps us understand the behaviour of the plastic. Furthermore we attached a pressure sensor to the bottom of the net, which tells us how far up and down the trawl went while sampling.
Over the next few days, we will continue to conduct measurements on the vertical distribution of micro-plastics in the North Atlantic Gyre, before heading back to Bermuda, from which the 6th and last multilevel expedition will leave later this month.
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