Whether you are 6 or 60, ocean health should be a concern for everyone. Right now the ocean is drowning in plastic, and millions of animals end up sick of dying from ingesting harmful plastic. While we can often expect great inventions to come from adults, these kids are inventing new ways to help the ocean before they exit their teens.
Sean Russell – 16 at time of innovation
Sean grew up near the ocean, and is no stranger to the amount of litter being tossed out on beaches. He began the “Stow it, don’t throw it” campaign. The campaign educates people on the dangers of fishing tackle to wildlife, and repurposes tennis ball containers into fishing line recycling bins. These bins are then given to anglers, along with information on why it’s important.
This alone is amazing work for a 16 year old, but he didn’t stop there. He also was a leader for the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. Today, Sean is still an activist for the ocean, and is a member of the National Marine Educators Association Board of Directors. He’s truly an inspiration for us all.
Boyan Slat – 16 at time of innovation
When Boyan Slat was 16 years old, he went diving in Greece. He encountered more trash than fish on his expedition. Where most kids would simply have been disappointed, Boyan rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He made cleaning up the ocean a high school project.
That invention became the Ocean Cleanup Project, which successfully raised millions of dollars to create the first plastic cleaning device. Boyan Slat has continued his amazing conservation efforts, and has recently added a plastic ‘interceptor’ for rivers to his creative endeavors, almost 11 years later.
Fionn Ferreira, 18 at time of innovation
A lot of the plastic floating around in the ocean isn’t big stuff like plastic bags or bottles. It’s tiny microplastics that have broken down from these things into microscopic pieces wildlife can swallow. There’s an astronomical amount of microplastic in the ocean. Fionn Ferreira spotted some of it on a rock while he was out kayaking. Just like the other youth in this article, he set about trying to figure out a way to remove it.
He won the 2019 Google Science Fair through his project that showed a way to successfully extract microplastics from water. Fionn had a hunch that a kind of ferrofluid used to control vibrations in speakers would work to attract microplastics. He was right. The fluid he used attracts the microplastic, and is environmentally safe. The project could be used to treat waste water before it goes into the ocean, stopping microplastics at its source.
These teenagers all did huge things to help the ocean, and it should be inspiration to us all. Even if we’re not inventors ourselves, there are still things we can do to help the environment. Together, we can make a difference.