The Ocean’s Plastic Crisis

Rachel Spinella
Features Editor

PC: Ben Mierement

Over the course of the last few years, plastic has been on the rise, contaminating our beaches and oceans. Since the beginning of the early 2000s, plastic was on the rise, and the result today has become a global crisis, as billions of pieces of plastic can be found floating in the ocean.

According to Biologicaldiversity.com, the plastic waste now makes up around 40 percent of the world’s oceans. The website states that at this current rate, we should expect plastic to outweigh all the fish in the sea by the year 2050. Studies have shown that from the equator to the poles, there has been an estimation of 15-51 trillion pieces of plastic found in the world’s oceans.

The effect that plastic pollution has on wildlife is deadly. Each year, thousands of marine animals are killed by ingesting the plastic floating around in the ocean, or even getting entangled in it.

This problem has been growing rapidly into a global crisis. Fossil fuel industries’ plastic productions will increase over the next decade by 40 percent. These industries are continuing to create more petrochemical plants across the U.S in order to turn gas into plastic.

So what can be done to save the world’s oceans as well as marine life? About two months ago, on Jan. 3, “60 minutes,” a CBS TV program, as well as one of the oldest and most-watched newsmagazines on TV, interviewed a young Dutchman by the name of Boyan Slat.

Slat is a Dutch inventor, entrepreneur and aerospace student drop-out. The Dutchman is also the CEO of the Ocean Cleanup company. The Ocean Cleanup company develops advanced technology in order to rid the world’s oceans of plastic and waste.

The Dutch inventor and Entrepreneur, Slat, having had no formal training, created a device that has helped clean up 50 percent of the plastic in the world’s oceans. Slat tells 60 minutes that when he was 16, he was swimming in Greece when he noticed that there was more plastic than fish in the water.

This trip had impacted him and influenced him to devote himself to a high school research project to investigate further as to why it was considered an impossibility to clean up the plastic contaminating the world’s oceans. He would later come up with an idea to create a passive system by using the circulating ocean currents, waves or winds to his advantage.

In an interview with Slat on “60 minutes,” he states, “I hope to deploy, say, around 60 of these cleanup systems in the next two years or three years- yeah which if we are successful with that, we should be able to remove half of this Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years.”

He further discusses how he came up with the idea when he was no more than 18 years old and presented it to Tedx Talk. The presentation went viral and he began to be seen as a self-styled savior. Over the years, Slat has also been able to raise up to more than 30 million dollars for his ocean cleanup.

However, on Jan. 17, 2019, the Washington Post, reported that the invention Slat had created in order to pick up trash near the Golden Gate Bridge nicknamed ‘Wilson’ had failed to do so in San Francisco. The contraption had broken into two, due to the rougher waters and wind.

The Ocean Cleanup company states that this is just a setback and that Wilson will be repaired and modified then be sent back to try again.  Although many scientists remain skeptical about the device after its first attempt ended with little success, Slat and the Ocean Cleanup company are still determined to succeed in removing the plastic from the waters of San Francisco.

Despite this, Slat has also received many awards and praise for his invention, as well as dedication to purifying the world’s ocean waters. In Nov. 2014, Slat was rewarded with the Champions of the Earth award of the United Nations Environment Programme as well as many others. Recently, as of 2018, Slat was awarded with the Euronews award, “European Entrepreneur of the Year.”

If you are interested in helping save the world’s oceans as well as sea creatures, then here are some little things that you can do to help. You can recycle, reduce your use of single-use plastics and even just spread the word by making more people aware of the growing plastic crisis.

And if you are also interested in knowing more about Boyan Slat and his company the Ocean Cleanup, then you can check out his website, TheOceanCleanup.



Categories: Features

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