Boyan Slat has designed this device to clean up the plastic in the ocean.

Its design is inspired by the manta ray.

It’s a massive array floating in the ocean.

Ships are fastened to the floor, connected by booms that re-direct debris to the center. The current of the ocean moves the plastic past the ships, which collect it.


An Enormous Floating Array For Cleaning Up The Ocean, Designed By A College Kid

Instead of scouring the ocean for debris, this device uses the ocean to collect the trash.

The problem of marine plastic pollution is not only big, it’s a tough nut to crack. Roiled by the ocean, plastic breaks down into many tiny fragments, including a sort of soup.

We’ve written about potential fixes—including this European Union-funded scheme involving fishermen. But repurposing fisher trawlers seems to be a bit small-bore, lacking in the necessary sort of industrial scale to really tackle the problem.

Boyan Slat is thinking big about the cleanup. His idea is a massive array floating in the ocean: Ships fastened to the floor, connected by booms that re-direct debris to the center. "Why move through the oceans, if the ocean can move through you?" he says in this video from last year’s TEDx event in Delft. "By letting the rotating current do their work, vast amounts [of] funds, manpower, and emissions will be saved." Shaped like a manta ray, he says 24 zig-zag arrays could clean an entire ocean, and could be self-funding from selling off the plastic. Watch him here:

In an email, Slat says a lot of testing is needed yet. "It’s not our intention to already be known as 'the solution,' even before we’ve proven its feasibility." Still, it looks like an interesting concept.

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  • sidney

    Well Done!
    We have been looking at this challenge from another angle.  We have a technology that enable the processing of mixed waste plastics.  We can manufacture new products from the waste plastic without having to separate the waste.  Contact us at,Sean Reel

  • einsteinsbrain

    if it breaks up and is destroyed then you have added to the problem . the way to clean up the debris is to repurpose fishing trawlers ( factory trawlers) if they can clean out the ocean of fish they could certainly clean up some floating debris. the only problems they need to solve is : how to keep the debris from fouling propulsion systems, plugging the seawater intakes for cooling engines and then what to do with the collected material

  • gezzr

    So it breaks up or is destroyed? Build a new one... trains, airplanes, ships, and cars are in accident ALL the time! We don't "NOT build them" because they get broken!!! Great Idea and mark navigation maps with tethered locations and keep fishing and shipping lanes away from them! As a side note they could have modular components, much like the Shuttle use to take for satellite upgrades and addition modules to the ISS and plug them in for monitoring equipment ranging form seismic activity, to wave conditions, currents, winds, etc... Replace the modules as needed on a regular basis as the contraptions are emptied of plastics by "mother ships." Awesome idea and originated by someone that was NOT shepparded into the engineering box by a stoic stuffy professor! 

  • jebozwell

    Couldn't agree more, have been out in the middle of the Pacific caught between two typhoons, our aircraft carrier had to limp into port after that.  They need to think 60-100 ft waves and 150 kt winds, if these things are essentially permanent, they will be impacted by rogue waves, which have been documented by satellite radar to be much more common than previously thought, on a regular basis.

  • Joel Alain

    I love people with simple ideas that can change the world. I love even more that in 2013, anyone can have a voice and be heard, no matter where they're from. Like Michael said, give this boy a kickstarter and let this be the first mass initiative to save the ocean. All we need is to be inspired by one person to make a change and who knows what could happen.