Sunday 3 January 2016

boy Boyan buoy boom

Boyan Slat was a teenager from Delft in Nederland who, a very few years ago, went diving in Greece and met more plastic bags than fish. Bummer! It must be like swimming in raw sewage discharged directly into the Estuary of the Three Sisters - the Rivers Nore, Suir and Barrow - between Counties Wexford and Waterford in SE Ireland. This wonderful marine shoreline, where I learned to make dams and eat sponge-cake as a nipper, is called Waterford Harbour, which might sound okay as a sewage outfall. "The Estuary of the Three Sisters" sounds like it is violated by untreated effluent. Like being beaten with various implements as a child, sucking up dilute coliforms in the sea off Duncannon Strand never did me any harm. buoy

I contrast to me, idly bloggin' about the trials of full-facial meeting-the-environment as a youth, Boyan Slat a) had an idea for cleaning up the offensive plastic and b) did something to progress it. He's become a bit of a buoy wonder.  Under October on our 2016 Kitchen Calendar we have:
"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who
did nothing because he could do only a little
Edmund Burke
I've written about the North Pacific Gyre before. As with Three Sisters / Waterford Harbour, the words matter: when described as the Pacific Garbage Patch it conveys a wholly unrealistic image of the density of plastic detritus which is only about half-a-kilo per That might be orders of magnitude more than other less vortexy regions of the ocean but it's still not very much. It's a bit like trying to find all the bits of a fragmented 35g 2lt pop-bottle on our 7 hectare farmlet, except that it's floating rather than being caught in the brambles.

He first articulated his idea of a tethered boom passively concentrating and gathering the plastic fragments in his 1st Talk at TEDx Delft in October 2012. He got up on stage, he made his pitch and then went on with his day-job as a student. Then, the video went viral! He started to get 1000+ e-mails a day and was able to crowd-source $80,000 in 15 days. $80k was enough to employ some Effectives and encourage lots of volunteers. The team worked really hard, both getting wet and running computer simulations, dealing with the long list of economic, ecological, ethical and engineering objections to the idea of corralling trash, the concentrating, abstracting and recycling it. The results of this research and rebuttal have been published in a 530 pp report "How the Oceans can Clean Themselves" which has [great metaphor] ocean-plastic covers! Slat was in a position to give a  Second talk in NYC June 2014 to the assembled team which summarised some of the solutions to the objections. As you gather the plastic fragments, they cried, you will gather up and destroy the plankton as well: not so, but even if all the plankton which encountered a boom was killed, the ocean would take 7 seconds a year to replenish the lost microbes. At $6 per kg gathered, it will never be economic, they sneered. Not so: the feasibility studies suggest a cost of $0.20 and at that price, the recycled plastic, like the book's cover, can be sold at a profit to pay for itself. Team Slat reckons there may be 7.25 million tons of extractable plastic bobbing about awaiting collection. Solar panels atop each collecting station will give the power to run the centrifuges to separate the particles by size. As Boyan wraps up his second talk:
"It's one of those things that couldn't be done but . . . then were done."

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