Boyan Slat was a Dutch high school student on a diving trip in Greece. He said when he was underwater, he noticed something troublesome – there were more plastic bags in the ocean than fish.
Slat’s observation is backed up from the scientific community. According to data from the journal Science in 2015, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic go into the ocean each year. The plastic has even reached areas of different oceans that was previously believed to have not been touched by humans.
The plastic doesn’t necessarily go unnoticed, or untouched. Many efforts to retrieve plastic out of the ocean involves the use of nets. However, when nets are deployed, marine life like fish and turtles are scooped out in the process. Slat thinks he has a solution – garbage collecting booms. Slat launched a trial test last September to take care of any issues they may have before having an official full-scale deployment in 2020.
He wanted to make sure that the garbage collecting booms had the right amount of speed through water, the capability to reorient when wind and waves cause direction changes and had no damage. They passed the test.
In October, Slat and his team decided to head out to the Pacific Ocean to test the garbage collecting booms. Three weeks passed, and Slat announced that the garbage collecting booms collected its first plastic. He then began to release some observations that the team made regarding their clean up. Marine life wasn’t involved, and small pieces got caught too. Some plastic left the system after being collected, and research is being done to learn why that happened.
Slat believes that his garbage collecting booms will be able to gather nearly half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area that has 79,000 tons of plastic, within five years. His project has been criticized by some, including by Science Magazine who described his garbage collecting as having great intentions, but being misguided.
Nearly 50 years ago, 20 million people across the country rallied for a healthier, more sustainable planet in response to an increased awareness of land and water pollution. Fast forward to current times, and answers are still being sought out to help reduce the carbon footprint on the planet.
This upcoming Monday is Earth Day. This Saturday, you can help make the planet look a little better by volunteering for the One Tree Planted team. The team will be planting 5,000 trees for Earth Day as part of a restoration effort after the 2010 Fourmile wildlife fire. On April 22, you can meet others at Confluence Park at 5 p.m. for a cleanup. Biodegradable bags, gloves, snacks and other things will be provided for the cleanup. You don’t need to bring anything.