In May, 2017, a twenty-two-year-old Dutch entrepreneur named Boyan Slat unveiled a contraption that he believed would rid the oceans of plastic. In a former factory in Utrecht, a crowd of twelve hundred people stood before a raised stage. The setting was futuristic and hip. A round screen set in the stage floor displayed 3-D images of Earth; behind Slat, another screen charted the rapid accumulation of plastic in the Pacific Ocean since the nineteen-fifties. Slat is pale and slight, and has long brown hair that resembles Patti Smith’s in the “Horses” era. He was dressed in a gray blazer, a black button-down, black slacks, and skateboarding sneakers, which he wears every day, although he doesn’t skateboard. Onstage, he presented plastic artifacts that he had collected from the Pacific during a research expedition: the back panel of a Gameboy from 1995, a hard hat from 1989, a bottle crate from 1977. “This thing is forty years old,” he said in Dutch-inflected English. “1977 was the year that Elvis Presley left the building for good, presumably.” The audience laughed. Slat then held up a clear plastic dish, filled with shards of plastic. “The contents of this dish are the actual stomach contents of a single sea turtle that was found dead in Uruguay last year,” he said. A picture of the dead turtle flashed on a screen behind him.
A Grand Plan to Clean the Great Pacific Garbage Patch