To further understand what Slat was trying to achieve, we need some background on the issue. In a nutshell, there are 8 million tons of plastic that find their way into the ocean every year. All of this plastic collects in places called convergence zones, or gyres. These zones exist due to the ocean currents that push all of the plastic into giant deposits. There are currently 5 major convergence zones on earth: two in the Pacific Ocean, two in the Atlantic ocean and one in the Indian Ocean.
The plastic that accumulates in the ocean has many disastrous effects on the plant and all of its life. Many oceanic creatures are killed every year due to the debris, whether it is via strangulation or ingestion. The plastics also cause harm to humans by releasing toxic chemicals such as PCBs and DDTs into the water when is then absorbed by fish that are consumed as food. The economic impacts are also apparent. Coastal areas spend extraordinary amounts of money to clean up beaches, fishing and shipping areas.
To find a solution, Slat studied many concepts of ocean cleanup in order to find what didn't work. Most systems he read about were extremely expensive, time consuming, and even increased emissions. He used these concepts to develop his breakthrough system of the Ocean Cleanup Array. Based on his knowledge of the ocean currents, he 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."
When he first introduced this idea in his Ted Talk, he faced some criticism. There was a lot of speculation on whether or not his system would be successful since there had been numerous clean up proposals in the past. Once his idea went viral, it received attention from people all over the world. He started a raise funds and was able to build a large team of engineers, oceanographers, and other volunteers to help him bring his dream to reality. Now after four years, his team has run numerous trials in areas such as the Azores to determine the feasibility of his system. For the past few years they have been preparing for execution. They hope to officially begin clean up in 2020.
Gardner describes a creative person as someone who "regularly solves problems, fashions products, or defines new questions in a domain in a way that is initially considered novel but that ultimately becomes accepted in a particular cultural setting" (Gardner 33). Here we see that the problem is plastic pollution in oceans and Slat has designed a product to solve that problem. He created his system by studying other previous proposals to figure out what not to do. This approach to developing his system is an example of divergent thinking. He researched for a very long time until he finally figured out the key to his system. As stated in Creativity, Intelligence and Personality by Frank Barron and David M. Harrington "The aha! comes when the process reaches a conclusion"(Barron and Harrington 443). Slat's aha! moment came when he "wondered; why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you?".
Right now, the idea is still novel. The system is still in the developmental stages and there is still criticism and speculation, something that all inventors and creatives face. Along with the negative reactions, there are also many positive ones. Slat has gained much support from people, receiving millions in donations and many volunteers. Hopefully, his new invention becomes accepted in our world as the most efficient and best way to clean up the oceans. When his system becomes the norm, we can all rest easier knowing that there is one less environmental issue to face.
Creating Minds by H. Gardner (1993)
CREATIVITY, INTELLIGENCE, AND PERSONALITY by F. Barron and D. Harrington (1981)