Desde que iniciamos Planeta-2 queríamos presentarles el trabajo de Boyan Slat “The Ocean Clean Up”, esta belleza de idea de limpiar nuestros océanos y no tener más plástico en 20 años es increíble; es por esta razón que decidimos ponernos en contacto con el joven Boyan para realizar una entrevista acerca de cómo nació este proyecto y qué sigue en este proceso.
Siendo sinceros pensábamos que la respuesta no llegaría por la agenda tan apretada que tienen, pero hace un par de días abrimos el correo y nos llenó de alegría ver que teníamos un email con las respuestas a nuestras preguntas: sin más preámbulo les comparto la visión del joven Boyan:
Planeta-2: How did you get here?
Boyan Slat: I was 16 years old, and I was diving in Greece in the summer of 2011, and suddenly I realized I came across more plastic bags than fish. So I wondered “why can’t we just clean this up”. Everyone told me: “Oh there's nothing you can do about plastic once it gets into the oceans.” I wondered whether that was true. For a high school science project I dedicated half a year to understanding the problem itself, and why it’s so difficult to clean up. This eventually led to the birth of the passive cleanup concept.
Planeta-2: Was there a particular trigger event for you to decide to act to help the environment?
Boyan Slat: The closest I ever came to a ‘Eureka-moment’ was when I was making some sketches on a napkin in a restaurant while on holiday in Portugal. I wondered; “why would you move through the oceans, if the oceans can also move through you?”. The passive cleanup concept was born: a passive system of floating barriers that is attached to the seabed, and oriented in a V-shape. The barriers first catch, and then concentrate the plastic, enabling a platform to efficiently extract the plastic once arrived in the center of the V.
Planeta-2:. What would be the first environmental catastrophe you would tackle if you were in government?
Boyan Slat: I think we have a fair chance of succeeding in getting ready for the big cleanup by 2020. My great worry is that we as a society do not manage to stop the flow of new plastic into the ocean by then. To be truly successful in solving plastic pollution, this is something that needs solving too. I really urge governments and organizations to step up their game in that field.
It is of course essential to first prevent more plastic from reaching the oceans in the first place, but that is not a solution for the plastics already trapped in the currents of the gyres. It is not a question of ‘either cleanup OR prevention’, it’s cleanup AND prevention. If a cleanup would start today, it would be a bit like mopping up the floor while the tap is still running. But until now, the mop hadn’t been invented yet. So we must stress the cleanup is only half the story – we should close the tap to prevent history repeating itself after the cleanup.
Planeta-2: Are you afraid people will use your project as an excuse to perpetuate the use of plastic?
Boyan Slat: The Ocean Cleanup shouldn’t be an excuse for business-as-usual, but it should be a motivation, that now that there is a method to clean what is already out there, this is the moment to significantly reduce the inflow as well.
To avoid any potential negative consequences, we will always stress the importance of prevention to the public. An important side-effect of The Ocean Cleanup is that it highlights the plastic pollution problem to the minds of millions of people that before were unaware about it. We are also able to make the problem visible, by concentrating in and taking it out of the water. Furthermore, our technological developments enable us to develop spin-offs for coastal and river implementations to intercept plastic before it reaches the oceans as well.
Planeta-2: What message would you like to convey to other environmental entrepreneurs like yourself?
Boyan Slat: Don’t be afraid to think big, and just go ahead with trying it and learn along that way.
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