In this photo taken on January 10, 2019 an olive ridley sea turtle lays dead with a rope around its neck on Marari Beach near Mararikulum in southern India's Kerala state. - Getting tangled in nets and ropes used in the fishing industry are a frequent hazard for vulnerable olive ridley sea turtles, which hatch by the millions in their largest nesting grounds each year along the coast of Odisha state in southeast India. (Photo by SOREN ANDERSSON / AFP)        (Photo credit should read SOREN ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
SOREN ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images
In this photo taken on January 10, 2019 an olive ridley sea turtle lays dead with a rope around its neck on Marari Beach near Mararikulum in southern India's Kerala state. - Getting tangled in nets and ropes used in the fishing industry are a frequent hazard for vulnerable olive ridley sea turtles, which hatch by the millions in their largest nesting grounds each year along the coast of Odisha state in southeast India. (Photo by SOREN ANDERSSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read SOREN ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:22
Plastic pollution is killing these animals
President Biden is hosting a two-day virtual summit of world leaders starting today, which coincides with Earth Day, to address the global climate crisis. He committed the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030.
Pool
President Biden is hosting a two-day virtual summit of world leaders starting today, which coincides with Earth Day, to address the global climate crisis. He committed the United States to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030.
Now playing
03:56
Biden opens global climate summit: 'This is a moral imperative'
stacey abrams john kennedy split
POOL
stacey abrams john kennedy split
Now playing
07:39
'Ok, I get the idea': GOP senator cuts off Stacey Abrams on controversial voting law
Now playing
03:05
Was QAnon used by foreign adversaries?
pool
Now playing
02:53
How Derek Chauvin conviction launched federal probe
Pharmacy student Jason Rodriguez prepares Pfizer vaccines at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center in Miami, Florida on April 15, 2021. - Jackson Health System launched a Covid-19 vaccination initiative with colleges and universities in Miami-Dade County, which include Barry University, Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, Miami Dade College and University of Miami. Through this partnership, students who are Florida residents, as well as out-of-state and international students, will be allowed to sign up for a COVID vaccine appointment via our online portal. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images
Pharmacy student Jason Rodriguez prepares Pfizer vaccines at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center in Miami, Florida on April 15, 2021. - Jackson Health System launched a Covid-19 vaccination initiative with colleges and universities in Miami-Dade County, which include Barry University, Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, Miami Dade College and University of Miami. Through this partnership, students who are Florida residents, as well as out-of-state and international students, will be allowed to sign up for a COVID vaccine appointment via our online portal. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:55
Covid-19 vaccine demand may soon reach a tipping point
Now playing
04:03
Taliban threatens to kill Afghans who worked for US during war
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) speaks to reporters as she arrives for the continuation of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. The next phase of the trial, in which senators will be allowed to ask written questions, will extend into tomorrow. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) speaks to reporters as she arrives for the continuation of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. The next phase of the trial, in which senators will be allowed to ask written questions, will extend into tomorrow. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Now playing
04:08
Murkowski explains why she's voting for Biden nominee
pool
Now playing
04:20
Watch as judge reads out verdict in Chauvin trial
News 12 Long Island
Now playing
02:45
1 dead and 2 wounded in shooting at Long Island Stop & Shop
CNN
Now playing
01:33
Gupta on Covid-19: It doesn't seem to transmit well on surfaces
Now playing
05:01
'Did I strike a nerve?': Val Demings takes on Jim Jordan
NBC/Today Show
Now playing
02:27
'To a certain extent, nativist': Bush criticizes current GOP
NASA/JPL
Now playing
01:29
Watch the Ingenuity helicopter's first flight on Mars
AirTag
Apple
AirTag
Now playing
01:17
See AirTag, Apple's new device for tracking your lost stuff
Scene video following a crash involving a Tesla Saturday night in Spring, TX
Scott Engle
Scene video following a crash involving a Tesla Saturday night in Spring, TX
Now playing
01:09
Fatal Tesla crash had no one in the driver's seat, police say
alexey navalny russia health vladimir putin Kiley pkg intl ldn vpx_00012003.png
alexey navalny russia health vladimir putin Kiley pkg intl ldn vpx_00012003.png
Now playing
03:06
Navalny ally warns he is in dire health. Here's how he got here
(CNN) —  

A teenager from Ireland may have found a way to rescue our oceans from the growing plastic pollution problem.

A walk on the beach led Fionn Ferreira to develop his project on microplastic extraction from water for the annual Google Science Fair. The project won the grand prize of $50,000 in educational funding at this year’s event.

The 18-year-old said that while he was out on that walk in his coastal hometown of Ballydehob, he ran across a stone with oil and plastic stuck to it – something he says he’s become more aware of in recent years.

“I was alarmed to find out how many microplastics enter our wastewater system and consequently the oceans,” he wrote in his project. That’s what got Ferreira thinking about how to develop a new extraction method.

Fionn Ferreira presents his project to combat the ocean's plastic pollution problem at the Google Science Fair.
Fionn Ferreira
Fionn Ferreira presents his project to combat the ocean's plastic pollution problem at the Google Science Fair.

The Google Science Fair has been crowning winners for eight years with the help of sponsors like Lego, Scientific American, National Geographic and Virgin Galactic. Students 13 through 18 from around the world are encouraged to submit and present science and technology experiments and results to a panel of judges.

How to remove microplastics

Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are typically less than 5 millimeters long, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency says plastic is the most common type of marine debris found in our oceans and Great Lakes. In even smaller pieces, it’s used as an exfoliator in face wash, body scrubs and toothpaste.

Because of the tiny size of these microplastics, they’re able to pass through water filtration systems and ultimately harm marine life and damage oceans.

Americans alone eat, drink and breathe between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic particles each year depending on their age and sex, according to a recent study. If you drink bottled water only instead of tap water, you can add up to 90,000 plastic particles to your estimated intake.

In the presence of water, ferrofluids – nontoxic magnetic liquids made up of oil and magnetite, an iron- based rock mineral – attract the microplastics because both have similar properties.

For his project, Ferreira added oil and magnetite to water and mixed in a solution emulating plastic waste in the ocean.

When the microplastics latched on to the ferrofluids, Ferreira dipped a magnet into the solution three times to remove both substances, leaving clear water.

After a little over 950 tests, the method was 88% effective in removing a variety of microplastics from water, surpassing Ferreira’s original hypothesis of an 85% removal rate.

What’s next?

Ferreira said his passion for science and technology came from his curiosity around nature and the environment. He’s excited to further his education at the University of Groningen’s Stratingh Institute for Chemistry in the Netherlands starting in the fall.

Because he lives in a remote part of Ireland, testing resources can be scarce, he said. But that didn’t stop him from accomplishing his goal. He just worked around it.

“I want to encourage others by saying you don’t have to test everything in a professional lab,” he said. “That’s why I built my own equipment.”

Ferreira said his parents are happy at his accomplishment – and because they don’t have to fund as much of his college tuition, thanks to the prize money.

CNN’s Susan Scutti contributed to this report.