Boyan Slat Is The 21-Year-Old Who Just Hacked The World's Oceans

Wow.

If you've taken a dip in the ocean recently, you may have noticed something: there is trash. A lot of it. 

For decades, environmentalists have struggled with the challenge of cleaning our oceans. Most project proposals have required far too much money, and appear to take far too much time, some even as long as 79,000 years.

But Boyan Slat has a new idea.

Using the ocean's natural currents, Slat has proposed a system that attaches to the sea bed and collects trash that gets pushed into it by the currents. His plan could clean up the entire Pacific Ocean in 20 years, and it's set to start by 2020. 

"In the past the story has always been, 'OK we can't clean it up so the best thing we can do is not make it worse,'" Slat told Huffington Post. "Sure, we should prevent more plastic from entering the ocean, but that's not a solution for the plastics already trapped in these offshore gyres."

According to Slat and his team at The Ocean Cleanup, there are five main areas where trash collects, called gyres, which are essentially circular currents that trap debris. Using their measurements and after researching the amount of garbage in the Pacific ocean, his team is estimating their system could complete a clean up of half the Pacific garbage patch in ten years. 

But it's important they act fast.

"The vast majority of the plastic in the garbage patch is currently locked up in large pieces of debris, but UV light is breaking it down into much more dangerous microplastics, vastly increasing the amount of microplastics over the next few decades if we don't clean it up," Slat said in a press release on their website. "It really is a ticking time bomb."

Check out HuffPo's video on the issue:

And here is Slat explaining how it works in a 2012 Ted Talk:

Cover photo: Christopher Furlong / Getty