Thursday, May 9, 2013

19-Year-Old Invents Ocean Cleanup Array



19-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat has unveiled plans to create an Ocean Cleanup Array that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The device consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Instead of moving through the ocean, the array would span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from plankton, filtered and stored for recycling.

At school, Boyan Slat launched a project that analyzed the size and amount of plastic particles in the ocean’s garbage patches. His final paper went on to win several prizes, including Best Technical Design 2012 at the Delft University of Technology. Boyan continued to develop his concept during the summer of 2012, and he revealed it several months later at TEDxDelft 2012.

Slat went on to found The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-profit organization which is responsible for the development of his proposed technologies. His ingenious solution could potentially save hundreds of thousands of aquatic animals annually, and reduce pollutants (including PCB and DDT) from building up in the food chain. It could also save millions per year, both in clean-up costs, lost tourism and damage to marine vessels.

It is estimated that the clean-up process would take about five years, and it could greatly increase awareness about the world’s plastic garbage patches. On his site Slat says, “One of the problems with preventive work is that there isn’t any imagery of these ‘garbage patches’, because the debris is dispersed over millions of square kilometres. By placing our arrays however, it will accumulate along the booms, making it suddenly possible to actually visualize the oceanic garbage patches. We need to stress the importance of recycling, and reducing our consumption of plastic packaging.”

To find out more about The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, visit:

Green Living Column, June 2013: Removing Weeds The Natural Way

The rainy season is upon us again, and it usually results in an increase in weeds. The use of chemical weedkillers and herbicides, however, has been linked to water and soil pollution and the deaths of insects, frogs, toads, birds, tree shrews and even companion animals such as dogs and cats. How, then, do we remove weeds without resorting to chemical weedkillers?  Here are some safer ways of removing weeds and preventing weeds from growing:
(1) Spread layers of wet newspaper on top of areas where you do not want weeds to grow. This prevents sunlight from reaching the soil and thus inhibits the growth of grass and weeds.  Old garbage bags, pieces of tarpaulin or old carpet and shower curtains work as well. However, this method can be rather unsightly, so you may wish to restrict this to the insides of flowerpots, borders and in the spaces between plants.
(2) After pulling out weeds, sprinkle normal table salt on the soil to stop weeds and grass from growing. Be careful not to salt the soil where other plants such as flowers grow, as you might end up inadvertently killing them. Salt also works well on edges of lawns, in cracks in the concrete or in the spaces in between tiles.
(3) Spray vinegar directly onto weeds to kill them. However, vinegar can kill other plants that it comes in contact with, so although it is eco-friendly and biodegradable, it takes a little forethought to manage an effective application. Applying vinegar onto weeds is best done on a sunny day without the risk of wind blowing the vinegar onto other plants or the rain to dilute or wash the vinegar away.
(4) Make a liquid soap spray to spray directly onto weeds. Mix 5 tablespoons of liquid soap (such as dishwashing liquid) in one quart (4 cups) of water in a spray bottle. Coat the weeds with the soapy water. Works best on hot days as well.
(5) A kettle of boiling water is usually enough to kill weeds, especially those growing in cracks in the concrete, but does not prevent weeds from growing in the same spot in future.