Kidz Spotlight: The Ocean Cleanup

Kidz Spotlight: The Ocean Cleanup


A hand with gloves picking up a plastic bottle on the beach

How often do you handle plastic on a day to day basis? You may not realize it, but we encounter plastic constantly, most often in packaging for food or toys. It takes a long time for plastic waste to break down, which often finds itself into our oceans, harming wildlife. 

When Boyan Slat was a teenager, he was swimming in the ocean in Greece when he realized there was more plastic surrounding him than fish. This sparked an interest in him.

Boyan wondered why a cleanup of the ocean was often considered impossible, and came up with an idea to build a system that would use the ocean currents to assist with collecting and cleaning up trash. He presented his idea in a TEDx talk in 2012.

When he turned 18, he officially created The Ocean Cleanup.

The Ocean Cleanup Project
When the project first started, Boyan raised $2.2 million from donors all around the world through a crowdfunding campaign. While his efforts were criticized by oceanographers stating it would never work, he continued to revise and test his theories to see what he could do to start cleaning up the ocean.

After 4 years of design, testing, and reconnaissance missions, the first ocean cleanup system was launched off the coast of San Francisco. While there were difficulties and failures along the way, they learned from their mistakes and kept pursuing their mission. 

In 2019, System 001/B was successful and collected 60 bags of Trash. Boyan’s research taught him that 80% of the plastic in the ocean was deposited by some of the dirtiest rivers in the world. This led him to his next project. He wanted to create a system that could catch plastics before it made its way into the ocean. 

The Ocean Cleanup designed and built a solar-powered barge that would sit at the mouth of rivers and passively collect trash. The system is being tested in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Dominican Republic and there are plans to expand to other countries. 

Today, The Ocean Cleanup has grown into a non-profit organization made up of 90 engineers, researchers, scientists, and computational modelers and collected money from donors that reached over $31.5 million.

Rewarding Work
Boyan has received a number of awards for his work with The Ocean Cleanup.

  • 2014 - The Champions of the Earth Award from the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • 2015 - The Young Entrepreneur Award in Norway. 
  • 2016 - “Forbes” list of “30 under 30”
  • 2017 - European of the Year from “Readers Digest” and Dutchman of the Year 2017 from a Dutch magazine
  • 2018 - European Entrepreneur of the Year from “Euronews”. He also received the Leonardo da Vinci International Art Award

There are a lot of ways in which you can help reduce the plastic in our oceans including recycling as much as you can, avoiding single use plastic, and avoiding items that are heavily packaged.

How do you reduce waste in your home? Share your ideas in the comments.

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