In 2012 — when he was just 18 — Dutch inventor and entrepreneur Boyan Slat gave his first TEDx Talk about cleaning up the ocean .
In his talk, he laid out his idea for cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an enormous and still-growing island of plastic and other trash hanging out in the north Pacific ocean between California and Hawaii.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered in 1997 by sailor and ocean researcher Charles Moore when he was participating in the Transpacific Yacht Race.
Trash collects in that particular spot because of a gyre — a swirling vortex of ocean currents — in the north Pacific that draws marine debris together. A recent Ocean Cleanup study found that the patch, consisting largely of plastic pieces, fishing nets, and other human refuse, is 4 to 16 times larger than previous estimates. It is now twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France.