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The Ocean Trash Travesty and One Man’s Dream to Turn the Tide

A selection of large objects observed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch during the Aerial Expedition conducted by the Ocean Cleanup organization.

Currently, the ocean appears to be the world’s largest landfill.  On a daily basis, thousands of tons of waste and trash are dumped into the ocean to float around and wreak havoc on our marine life.  There are over five trillion pieces of plastic floating around our oceans and while most of us would agree that we should work to keep our oceans clean, until now there have been very few solutions.

Lucky for us, in 2012 a young man by the name of Boyan Slat made it his mission to rectify this growing global problem.

Within the planet’s oceans there are at least five major currents—called gyres—where trash and debris get carried around the world. As the trash circulates, it eventually breaks down into small particles—especially plastic. Fish then eat this plastic, and eventually, people end up eating some of these fish. It’s a problem that has widespread implications for the ecology of our planet.

To combat the problem of ocean litter, Boyan proposed the idea of building floating filtration platforms, also referred to as passive drifting systems, situated within the gyres themselves and anchored to the ocean floor. Since most trash (especially plastic) floats on or near the surface of the ocean, natural wave motion could force water through the filters with no resource expenditure necessary, and without endangering fish and other ocean life. The concentrated plastic would be brought back to shore for recycling, the revenue from which would be used to expand the cleanup to the other four ocean gyres.

Boyan decided to pursue this idea in 2012 while still in primary school, and began building a team when he entered university, which today consists of over 70 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers from around the world. The non-profit Ocean Cleanup was officially founded in 2013 with the goal to deploy systems that clean up 50 percent of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (also known as the Pacific trash vortex and located in the central North Pacific Ocean) in the next five years.

That same year, Boyan met Bertrand Sicot, who was then CEO of SOLIDWORKS. Sicot resolved to help the team by connecting them with the global community of SOLIDWORKS users for engineering expertise and also collaborated with the team on two contests and invited Boyan to attend both a SOLIDWORKS launch event and SOLIDWORKS World to help get his message in front of the North American press.

In 2014, the group completed a large-scale feasibility study, which helped them decide how to proceed with design, implementation and operation. The team learned many things during this stage, the biggest of which was that the idea is, in fact, feasible. They also learned that the original design of their filtration platforms would likely not survive the harsh conditions found in the Pacific Ocean, and created a new design that is less beautiful, but will actually work.

Also in 2014, they launched a crowdfunding initiative to raise money to continue their efforts and build a functional prototype. That campaign was a huge success and raised $2.2 million through donations from over 38,000 individuals from 160 countries, making it the most successful non-profit crowdfunding campaign to date.

Click here to read more about the progress that Boyan and the team at SOLIDWORKS have made to clean up our oceans and how you can help.

Want to learn more about how SOLIDWORKS can help you achieve your goals?  Click here and an expert at The SolidExperts will contact you shortly.

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