Following is an extract from a BBC story. Boyan Slat is a 20-year-old on a mission – to rid the planet’s oceans of floating plastic. He has dedicated his teenage years to finding a way of collecting it. But can the system really work – and is there any point when so much new plastic waste is still flowing into the sea every day?
‘I don’t understand why ‘obsessive’ has a negative connotation, I’m an obsessive and I like it,’ says Boyan Slat. ‘I get an idea and I stick to it.’
This idea came to him at the age of 16, in the summer of 2011, when diving in Greece. ‘I saw more plastic bags than fish,’ says Slat. He was shocked, and even more shocked that there was no apparent solution. ‘Everyone said to me: ‘Oh there’s nothing you can do about plastic once it gets into the oceans,’ and I wondered whether that was true.’
Global production of plastic now stands at 288 million tonnes per year, of which 10% ends up in the ocean in time. Most of that – 80% – comes from land-based sources. Litter gets swept into drains, and ends up in rivers – so that plastic straw or cup lid you dropped, the cigarette butt you threw on the road… they could all end up in the sea.
The plastic is carried by currents and congregates in five revolving water systems, called gyres, in the major oceans, the most infamous being the huge Pacific Garbage Patch, half way between Hawaii and California.
Although the concentration of plastic in these areas is high – it’s sometimes described as a plastic soup – it’s still spread out over an area twice the size of Texas. What’s more, the plastic does not stay in one spot, it rotates. These factors make a clean-up incredibly challenging.
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