Fresh Ideas for Salt Water

Okay, I admit it; tuning my life to ocean-friendly products only is going to be a reach for me. Mainly I’m learning as I go. You might remember that my focus on keeping plastics from getting in the ocean was originally kicked off with a post on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch


Our household is making progress using cloth grocery bags with the unintended consequence of many bags hanging on various doorknobs. Then, that success leads to a new question: Why use plastic bags used to gather up my string beans in the produce section? Now I’m talking to store staff about replacing them with renewable, sustainable paper bags.

Surprising Ideas

I’m also being inspired by Big Magic, a new book by Elizabeth Gilbert on creative acts of living. Although it is especially welcoming to those involved in the arts, she is inviting creative ideas and acts into any and every aspect of our lives. She encourages our staying open to the fresh ideas that visit us, often surprising us when we’re otherwise occupied.


Boyan Slat says an idea came to him that way: “On the way to the hairdressers I had this little epiphany . . .” He’d been studying plastics pollution and just then saw people throwing more garbage in the water; he realized that cleanup had to go along with prevention.

He has now moved forward to the next step of deploying a 100 meter-long barrier in the North Sea this spring to test a collection design in open waters. This follows the work of gathering a workgroup of 100 and raising 2.2 million dollars. Tests have already been done to estimate the actual amount of plastic out there, to measure the depth of the garbage, and to filter plankton bycatch back into the ocean. You might enjoy his 12-minute TED talk quoted here.

In the past there have been many concepts aimed at cleaning plastic from the oceans, but these were all based on vessels with nets, that would fish for plastic. Not only would this take billions of dollars and 79,000 years, but it would also create bycatch and emissions. Not a very attractive proposal. Furthermore the plastic rotates in the areas where the plastic concentrates, so it does not stay in one spot. So I wondered; why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you? I came up with 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 it arrives in the center of the V.
— Boyan Slat, 2012 Ted Talk

Refining Ideas

Take a look at his platform design which has the added advantage that the estimated costs are less than what the captured plastic can be sold for. Notice its huge scale as shown by the tiny human standing on it.

I don’t know about you, but young Mr. Slat is definitely an inspiration for me to go way beyond cloth grocery bags. As I pay attention to all the plastic that has slurried into my life, I’m ready for changes. Instead of ziplock bags and plastic straws I need fresh ideas for storage and sipping.