How Boyan Slat’s The Ocean Cleanup Was Derailed By A Flawed Design | NowThis


I’ve Always been a maker. First, of course, things like
treehouses zip lines and eventually it turned more
into rockets and explosives. I always have my projects but they weren’t for useful. That really changed when I found this
problem. My name is Boyan Slat and this is how I changed the world. When I was 16 years old I was scuba diving in Greece and I saw more plastic bags than fish and I wondered, “why can’t we just clean this up?” As a high school science project. I chose to enter this problem and by everyone told me it would be
impossible to clean up. I then enrolled at the University of Delft started studying aerospace engineering and at some point in time I
had to make the choice am I going to fully
focus on the university right now or on this clean up project. And I thought well it’s a high risk
project but if you don’t try there’s zero
chance for this to happen. When I made the decision to drop out my
parents questioned me about it. I think I had some good arguments. I think I’m thankful that they let me choose a more unconventional path. There was no money for this. I had 300 euros of pocket money saved up. I think all of that we just spent on
the registration of the foundation and then I tried to do fundraising. And back then I really didn’t know what
it was doing. I wrote an email to a few hundred
companies asking for sponsorship. I think only one replied and that person said, “Well this is a terrible idea and go back to school this is rubbish. It’s never going to work.” So that wasn’t a very successful fundraising
attempt but then fortunately eventually we
tried the crowdfunding which was massively successful and that then allowed us to get
started. Nobody ever deployed a structure of
this scale on the ocean aimed at collecting
plastic. So the tricky thing was that we had to find out how to do this along the way. My observation has been that bad ideas usually get more complicated over time
while good ideas get simpler over time. The original idea was about the seabed
doesn’t move while the water at the surface moves. We can use this differences
speak to them collect the plastic. However the forces on the system because they were fixed to the seabed were so vast that these anchor lines had to be extremely
complicated. We had several hundred lines to the seabed in water 5 kilometers deep. The number of lines we used would be able to circumvent the globe. It just became more complicated the further we went solving that problem. The team wasn’t positive about the chances of success. It was just really, um, really tough. It’s not like software where you simply change a few lines of code. You’re talking about big structures
hundreds of thousands of euros apiece so if something goes wrong it’s it’s really rather annoying. I remember the moment that I was
convinced that we had to change. I believe it was actually two interns
that were doing a master thesis that first suggested to go to a drifting design. Those clean up systems gravitate towards those areas with the highest density of plastic. It was such a beautiful simple principle. Within five minutes I was sold and said, “Let’s pivot the design and let’s go in this direction.” After five long years of research and development and expeditions and prototypes now finally this September we’re
launching the world’s first ocean cleanup system. If we were to deploy a fleet of 60 of these kind of systems we expect to be able to clean up half this Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years. Once those clean up systems are out
there we want them to be able to pay for
themselves. So we take the plastic out, bring to land, and we turn it back into high quality desirable products that people can buy and with that they will be able to fund the cleanup. To be able to put off a project like this. I think one of the most important
things is that you have to be really obsessive and passionate about what you do. You will have to commit for the next
five or 10 years this being basically the only thing
you’re doing for that period of time. If you’re not truly obsessed it’s not going to happen.

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