Solving world problems with Boyan Slat

When he was sixteen, he went diving in Greece and saw more plastic waste than fish. When he was nineteen he went to New York and presented the results of a 530-page feasibility study about his solution to clean the oceans. That’s how fast things can go. When your name is Boyan Slat, at least. He’s the 12th role model of the FutureFuel quest.

This Dutch teenager has found a way to rid the oceans of tons and tons of plastic waste, the pollution of decades. His idea? Building a floating barrier in the sea that carries the waste to an installation where the plastic is contained and separated. No complicated and environmentally unfriendly suction machines or expensive boats with even more expensive nets, but simply one installation in each of the five currents of our oceans. ‘Why move through the oceans if the oceans can move through you?’ The TEDx Talk about Boyan’s simple but ridiculously innovative concept has had over 1.5 million views. Almost every (international) medium has requested an interview with him, but he has sent them all a very polite email: ‘No, thank you. Please contact me again as soon as I know if it works.’ Boyan Slat doesn’t care for attention. No, he wants impact.

18 months ago he was sitting in his dorm alone, surrounded by big sheets filled with sketches. The textbooks of the study he had recently enrolled in were conveniently pushed aside. He had quit his study after only 4 months, and his social life with it. First things first: he wanted to get rid of all that plastic in the ocean. But how could a Dutch teenager solve a world problem all by himself?

Last week Boyan presented the results of the feasibility study of his plan on behalf of a team of 100 (!) experts and scientists. After 3 scientific ocean expeditions and with the help of volunteers around the world, Boyan was finally able to show his report to the world: inches thick with a cover made out of plastic waste from the ocean . ‘They said it couldn’t be done. But it can.’ In 3 years, when he is 21, he aims to install the pilot version of his installation by means of crowd funding.

I am intrigued by this young inventor and his focus on impact and solutions. Where others kept talking, Boyan took action. Where others would happily accept all those interview requests, Boyan retreated to his drawing board. Last year, during TEDxDelft where we were both invited to share our stories, I talked to him. Just like CNN, RTL Nieuws and all those other media I had to wait patiently for his feasibility study was finished before I could interview him. Now the moment has finally arrived. In 1.5 weeks he will be sitting in front of my camera, doing an extensive interview about creating a better world. Boyan-style.


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