Tag Archives: garbage

This 19-Year Old Has A Plan To Clean Up Half of The Pacific Garbage Patch In 10 Years (Video)

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, off the western coast of the United States, lies the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It’s tough to say exactly how widespread the island of plastic is; estimates range from 270,000 square miles (slightly larger than Texas), up to 15,000,000 square miles (twice the size of the United States).

An estimation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Click to enlarge

Its real size is probably somewhere in the middle, but even at the lowest estimates, the island is massive and only continues to grow every day.

Enter Boyan Slat, a 19-year-old entrepreneur and conservationist from the Netherlands. Boyan has come up with a simple yet ingenious way to clean up half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years, using the ocean’s currents to his advantage. Check out the video below to learn more about it.

Slat claims that half of the garbage patch will be equal to 70 million kilograms of plastic- that’s more than 77,000 tons.

These plastics could be used in a number of ways- we recently reported on the world’s first waste-to-biofuel facility, which converts even non-recyclable plastics into methanol, a useful building block for chemicals and a component of many gasoline blends today.

Slat first publicized his idea at a TEDx conference in his home town of Delft in the Netherlands. You can watch it below to learn more about the details of his plan.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one of five trash patches around the world. These patches form in gyres, which are basically massive vortexes that form as a result of ocean currents and prevailing winds.

All the floating trash that ends up in our waterways will eventually end up in one of these gyres.

The five gyres. Click to enlarge (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The five gyres. Click to enlarge (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

If Boyan’s idea proves successful, we could use it worldwide to battle these ever-growing trash islands, while simultaneously turning this trash back into biofuels.

Boyan was recently named one of Intel’s 20 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs Worldwide. Check out the homepage of his company The Ocean Clean Up.

If you’re curious, here’s a great graphic that shows how long it takes for various pieces of garbage to decompose in the ocean. Click the image to see the full size version.

Canada Just Opened the World’s First Waste-to-Biofuel Facility and Its A Game-Changer

In Edmonton, Alberta, an idea that could drastically change how we produce energy as well as how we dispose of our waste has finally come to fruition.

Edmonton’s new Waste Management Center converts household garbage into biofuels. The facility is expected to reduce the amount of trash in Edmonton’s landfills by 90% in the next two years, using all of that trash to create biofuels.

The new Edmonton Waste Management facility

Vincent Chornet is the CEO of Enerkem, the company who owns the new plant. He describes their raw materials as,

“a mixture of non-recyclable plastics, non-recyclable fibre, there’s wood, there’s even such things as shingles — that gets shredded down and that’s what we are fed with.”

That shredded non-recyclable waste is converted to gas, which is in turn converted into methanol. The process leaves behind about 10% of the waste, including metal, ceramics and glass which can’t be converted into methanol.

A diagram of the waste-to-biofuel process. Click to enlarge

Methanol has a number of uses. It’s often used in windshield wiper fluid because it won’t freeze in cold weather, but it can also be used as a basic chemical building block for other chemicals. A significant portion of the methanol will be purchased a local chemical company and some will end up in Canadian cars, as Alberta mandates at least 5% methanol in all gasoline.

At $75 per metric ton (~1.1 U.S. tons), the process is only slightly more expensive than transporting the waste to a landfill, and won’t require citizens to change anything about how they dispose of their garbage.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson

Edmonton’s mayor Don Iveson (who, by the way, looks like he’s still in high school) calls the new facility a “sexy” topic for the cities inhabitants. He also said,

“I think we are fiercely proud of what we’ve been doing here in this city. It’s one of the things that when people question the commitment of Edmontonians and Albertans to the environment, we point to this as global leadership and we’re very, very proud of it, and we should be.”

Read more from the Edmonton Journal here.