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20-Year-Old Dutch Inventor Crowd-Funding Great Pacific Garbage Patch Cleanup Effort

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— There's a creative new system afloat to clean up the plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean. Boyan Slat, 20-year-old Dutch inventor and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, says he's fed up with more plastic than plankton in what's called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Slat, an aerospace engineering dropout, is crowd-funding part of his plan to get the job done this summer as part of the 'Mega Expedition', in which 50 vessels aim to collect more plastic measurements in three weeks than have been collected in the last 40 years combined.

How We Showed the Oceans Could Clean Themselves | LIVE | Boyan Slat | The Ocean Cleanup by The Ocean Cleanup on YouTube

A 2014 study concluded that the overall cleanup effort is a feasible and cost-effective way of removing half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years' time. Slat said his team has struggled with how much exactly half of the garbage is.

"Some people think it's 140 million kilos, other people think it's 10 times or 100 times more," Slat said.

The expedition is set to take off in August where the vessels will cross between Hawaii and California. These new measurements will help researchers get a better idea of exactly how much plastic is in the ocean, which will lead to the actual cleanup process.

One proposal that involved "fishing for plastic" proved to be too expensive with costs in the billions of dollars and wouldn't have been effective due to the ocean's enormity, not to mention it would have killed or damaged marine life. Slat also realized the ocean currents were making the plastic rotate.

"I wondered, 'Why go through the ocean if the ocean can go through you?'" he said.

Slat then developed the passive system, comprised of long floating barriers, which according to him allows the plastic to concentrate itself.

"Once in the center, the plastic will be 100,000 times more concentrated. That's a spot where we can easily, physically extract it, and store it for six weeks before transporting it to land before recycling."

He makes it sound so simple, but what's the bottom line and where will the money come from?

Slat says the program is in the pilot phase and the technology for the cleanup execution should be ready in about three to four years' time. Last summer about 40,000 people jointly contributed over $2 million to the crowd-funding effort to get the pilot program started. The second execution phase is estimated to cost about 320 million Euros (about $359 million).

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