While sunbathing on a beach and swimming in the crystal blue waters during your dream tropical vacation , did you ever stop to wonder how dirty our oceans really are? Sure, the water looks sparkling clean here, but do you know how much we really pollute our oceans and seas? If you don't believe us, the following pictures are going to make you squirm uncomfortably.
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Image Source: Huffingtonpost.ca
Yep, that's what we've done to our waters. In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that there's something called the Great Pacific garbage patch that now exists. It's a Pacific trash vortex: basically a fancy way of saying that it's an island of garbage in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that's there because of the oceanic currents, and the fact that we've been dumping all our trash into the seas. Isn't humanity just great?
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But the good news is that all hope is not lost. While we may have done irreparable damage to our oceans, lakes, and seas, there are some people out there who are looking for solutions. Boyan Slat is just one of them and we're going to tell you his story.
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Boyan Slat is a 21 year-old Dutch inventor, environmentalist and aerospace engineering student and he has come up with the way to clean up plastic waste from our oceans. He has devised a system that catches plastic debris that has been driven to a particular point by ocean currents and this system won a prize for Best Technical Design at Delft University of Technology. He gave a TEDx talk to the world about how it's not too late to save our oceans (if you're interested to listen to what he has to say, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROW9F-c0kIQ) and attracted volunteers along with 2 million USD of funding for his project. His design has been so well-received that in 2014, he won the Champions of the Earth award of the United Nations Environment Programme. And the best part about his idea: its simple.
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The Ocean Cleanup Programme will involve an array that is a long, floating barrier that will moored to the seabed. With the natural ocean currents doing their job and moving through the barrier, it will collect plastic debris in a collector shaped like a manta ray. This array will be the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean: it will span an area of over 1 mile. And Slat and his team have already chosen a place where it will be deployed off the Japanese island of Tsushima where 30,000 cubic metres of trash washes ashore each year and takes a whopping 5 million USD to clean. The system should be in place by 2016. The best part is that the plastic waste collected can be used as an energy source later.
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This is only a trial. If it's successful, many such arrays will be deployed all around the world: they will be many miles long and may go as deep as 4,500 metres which will be a huge challenge.
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Critics say that prevention is better than cure, it is better if we stop letting plastic enter our oceans, and that it will be easier than cleaning the plastic up. But the problem is, as Slat so succinctly puts in his talk, some people never learn. There will always be people throwing their trash into the oceans if a dustbin is unavailable, or out of sheer habit. Cleaning up the oceans may be a herculean task, but somebodys gotta do it. And this guy has taken on the job!
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So the next time youre on the beach, think twice before you dump your trash into the ocean. The plastic that goes into the ocean will be eaten by the fish and marine animals that we consume. Ultimately, it's us who are going to get hurt. Each person can make a difference and Boyan Slat is showing us the way. Let's leave our beaches clean, shall we?