What’s With All the Plastic? 

Have you purchased and tried to open a new kids’ toy recently? Or almost any new product for that matter…

How frustrating is it to have to cut and rip through all the plastic and ties? Why can’t things just simply come in a box? 

Even more frustrating than trying to open that new product, is finding out where most of that plastic and trash ends up...

Plastics in our oceans, and really all over the planet, is a big problem. 

Many of us can feel helpless like it’s too late and there’s nothing we can do about it … But there are always solutions. 

It just takes one good idea … An idea can change the world, humanity, and our planet. Whether it’s a new technology or an improvement of an existing product. 

Once you have an idea, you have to act on it. That’s where many of us lack the passion, energy, or money to pursue them … Simply, we make excuses. 

Imagine how great the world could be if we all had confidence and believed in our ideas and pursued them until they became a reality? 

The world would move forward at record speeds with new ideas, technology, and solutions…

Today we’re going to look at the story of one boy who saw a problem, thought of a solution, then took action to make his idea a reality ... An idea and solution that could benefit humans and animals around the world...

Everything Starts as an Idea 

Boyan Slat is a Dutch inventor. In 2011, when he was just 16 years old, he was swimming in the ocean in Greece when he noticed there was more plastic than fish. 

That sparked an interest in him. He wanted a solution and wondered why a cleanup was considered impossible. Later, he did a high school project on the plastic pollution problem in the ocean. 

Following that he came up with the idea to build a system that would use the ocean currents to assist with collecting and cleaning up the trash. He presented his idea in a TEDx talk in 2012. 

And in 2013, at 18 years old, he created The Ocean Cleanup and dropped out of his Aerospace Engineering studies to concentrate on his project. 

Ideas Turned into Solutions 

With his new project started, Boyan started a crowdfunding campaign and raised $2.2 million from donors around the world. 

From there he wrote a feasibility study. It was criticized by oceanographers stating it could never work…

But despite that, he continued to revise and test his theories.

After 4 years of design, testing, and reconnaissance missions, the first ocean cleanup system was launched off the coast of San Francisco on September 8, 2018.  

They encountered difficulties and failures and returned to shore to make improvements and learn from their mistakes. 

In 2019, System 001/B was successful and collected 60 bags of trash. 

As part of Boyan’s research into the cause of the amount of plastic and trash in the ocean, he learned that 80% of the plastic in the ocean is deposited by some of the dirtiest rivers in the world... 

So he moved on to his next project … A system that could catch the plastics before it made it into the ocean where it would spread with the ocean currents. 

The Ocean Cleanup designed and built a solar-powered barge that could sit at the mouth of the rivers and passively collect trash as it came out of the river. As of this year, the system is being tested in Malaysia, Indonesia, and most recently in the Dominican Republic.  

There are plans to expand this system in the future to other countries. 

The Ocean Cleanup has continued to collect money from donors and reached $31.5 million. It has now grown into a non-profit organization made up of 90 engineers, researchers, scientists, and computational modelers. 

The Rewards

For his work, Boyan has received a number of awards like…

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

 But we’re guessing the biggest reward is seeing your idea become a reality, and see it successfully collecting plastic and garbage.

It’s proof that we can really create anything we want. And it would serve us all to focus on creating more solutions, rather than focusing on problems... 

How Can You Help?

The Ocean Cleanup has launched a product made completely from recycled materials collected from the Great Garbage Patch … Sunglasses! 

Who doesn’t wear sunglasses while out on the ocean or sitting at the beach? It makes perfect sense!

With every purchase of sunglasses, you’re helping to clean an area of ocean the size of 24 football fields. 

They’ve made a limited supply but if they sell out, they estimate they can clean an area the size of 500,000 football fields … that’s huge!

Check out their website to get your pair or to learn about all the amazing things this non-profit is up to...

What Can We Learn?  

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas. That’s massive! And although the trash is spread out, it’s still a huge area to try to cover. 

It would be costly and inefficient to have boats and nets out there trying to catch all the trash as it moves around with the currents. 

It just took someone with a little imagination to come up with a solution and then pursue it until they saw it fulfilled. 

There’s still lots of work to do cleaning up garbage and plastics in the ocean and around the world. It starts with reducing waste to begin with. 

We can all think a little harder before purchasing things we don’t need, avoiding one-use plastics, and items that come heavily packaged.

We can also be more conscientious of how we dispose of our trash. Make sure it's secured tightly in bags and recycle as much as we can. 

The number of things that are recyclable is growing every day. 

We can also learn a lesson from the minds of children ... Use our imagination more, have curiosity, seek solutions, and pursue our ideas and goals wholeheartedly. It seems to come naturally but as we grow up we forget about these simple joys…

Conclusion 

Every great invention starts with an idea. But it takes someone special to act on their ideas, no matter how huge or impossible they seem. 

With the right idea and the right support (and money), we can really create amazing things. If we all come together to solve a major problem facing our earth and our species we can accomplish anything. 

Never underestimate the power of an idea. An idea can create change or improve our lives.  Don’t worry about how it will all work out. Just start...take small steps every day to work towards your goal. 

How do you reduce waste in your home? Share your ideas in the comments, we’d love to hear from you! 

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