Our waterways and oceans are being polluted at unprecedented rates. But there are some glimmers of hope – one of those is The Ocean CleanUp Project, started by a young man, Boyan Slat. They’ve just announced that they’ve removed more than 200 tons of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That’s hardly a dent in the estimated 90,000 tons of plastic floating in that garbage patch – but it’s better than doing nothing. And one day, it might just have succeeded in cleaning it up completely.
Join us next week as we discuss what we can learn from the inspirational example of a young man who wasn’t scared to have a ridiculous idea, to experiment with ways of making it work, and of building a business that does good in the world. Members of my Futures Club will get additional, exclusive insights, tools and resources to help them apply this to their own businesses. Sign up now.
There are very few pristinely, clean beaches and rivers left in the world anymore. Our waterways are polluted. I don’t know about you, but whenever I walk past a beach or a river, I just see pollution, a lot of it, and most of it is plastic.
The worst part is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and this is two massive areas between Japan and America, north of Hawaii, where a lot of the plastic in the ocean eventually ends up, warm currents from the south, cool currents from the north create this vortex and all the plastic gets caught there. It’s massive, it’s a mess.
But jump with me to the future in today’s ThrowForward Thursday episode, where we imagine that we’ve cleaned that up and we’ve cleared the oceans of plastic. My name is Graeme Codrington and I love to jump into the future and see what’s happening there. Sometimes it’s a disaster, but sometimes there’s a good news story to be told.
And today’s good news story is about a guy called Boyan Slat. Hey, if you’re going to be called anything, be called Boyan Slat. He’s a Dutch young adult. When he was 16 years old, a few years ago, he went on a holiday to Greece, and he saw the problem. He was snorkelling and he saw more plastic than fish. He went back to school, and he did a project on an idea to clean up the oceans.
It’s kind of based on what was happening in his local swimming pool, which had a leaf skimmer that just skimmed the top of the surface of the swimming pool and at age 16, you just imagine that we could do that in the ocean. Why not? So he came up with this idea. It was quite impressive for school level and that seemed to be the end of the story, except it wasn’t.
He then goes off to university, I think he was studying Aeronautical Engineering, and a place comes up, a last minute place comes up to do I think it was a Ted Talk. He was asked, “Why don’t you just step in?” And he doesn’t quite know what to do, so he says, “Well, I’ll just present this idea from high school”. Again, he presents it and the story goes that as that Ted Talk was released, a few days later, he started getting phone calls from rich investors all around the world saying, “How do I invest in your project?” “Which project?” Says Boyan, “your Ocean Cleanup project”. And so, it began. Now Boyan lives on a ship that’s actually doing this.
And yes, it’s getting better and better all the time. In April of 2023, they announced that they had now just tipped over the 200-tonne level. They have removed 200 tonnes of plastic. It’s turning into an actual profitable venture where they can take that plastic and recycle it and then get income to increase and improve the size of the project and the efficiency of the system that they are creating. All in all, a good news story. How long will it take to clean up the great Pacific Garbage Patch and then move that into well, into rivers, and other areas? Well, let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.
ThrowForward Thursday sometimes, so we can look forward to a good news story where we are doing good for the planet and improving life on Earth.
Next week, we’re going to continue this conversation, as we’re doing now in season three of ThrowForward Thursday, and we’ll think about what you and your company might be able to do if you do three things.
Number one, you’re not scared of ridiculous ideas. Number two, you’re not scared to experiment with something that might feel a little bit ridiculous, but if it comes off, could be amazing. And three, if you’re prepared to think about doing business for good rather than just good business.
But I’ll see you next week and we’ll pick up the conversation, especially for the members of the Futures Club. Until then, make sure we live in a better world.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.