Ocean “crusader” says critics almost convinced him to give up

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Waste plastic from the sea. (UNEP video capture)

An environmental campaigner who's just won a top UN award for his plan to clean up the oceans said he often thought about quitting because of the criticism he faced.

Boyan Slat – who put his university studies on hold to tackle the problem of removing waste plastic from the sea – said industry experts insisted it couldn't be done.

“Sometimes, it wasn’t really useful criticism, it was just like, 'We don't want to see this happen.' It conflicted with the story that has been told  during the past 10 years, the fact that it couldn't be cleaned up…and now that I said there was a way a way to clean it up, that kind of conflicted with their narrative and that influenced their actions as well…and that moment for me was pretty tough."  (25″)

Most plastic is found near the surface, Slat told journalists in Geneva on Monday.

At the moment, boats are sent out at great cost to fetch the debris using nets, but they trap fish and other organisms, Slat added.

The 20 year-old's idea involves a 100km floating barrier that will gather rubbish in one place so it can be removed and recycled.

Before the Dutch student's idea went viral on the Internet in March last year, he said he contacted hundreds of companies asking for help, but only one replied.

His OceanCleanup Initiative has now received more than two million dollars from donors on the web.

This will help fund an initial one km sea barrier, with the ultimate aim being to launch the 100km floating structure by 2020.

It'll be halfway between Hawaii and California near the area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It's here that one third of the oceans' plastic rubbish is located, said Slat, who's to receive a Champions of the Earth award from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on Wednesday in Washington.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations.

Duration:  1’48″

 

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