Dutch inventor Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup at the age of 18 in his hometown of Delft, the Netherlands.
The Ocean Cleanup's team consists of more than 80 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers working daily to rid the world's oceans of plastic.
Our headquarters are located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. We are a registered charity as a 'Stichting' in the Netherlands, and a 501(c)(3) in the US.
Big problems require big solutions
The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.
By utilizing the ocean currents to our advantage, our passive drifting systems are estimated to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years’ time.
We must defuse this ticking time bomb
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time, impacting more than 600 marine species.
According to the United Nations, plastic pollution is conservatively estimated to have a yearly financial damage of 13 billion USD. The costs stem from the plastic’s impact on marine life, tourism, fisheries and businesses.
Plastic pollution does not only impact sea life, it also carries toxic pollutants into the food chain – a food chain including us humans.
A simple idea turned into a moonshot project
The Ocean Cleanup is designing and developing the first feasible method to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. The Ocean Cleanup was founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, after his TEDx talk about his proposed solution to the plastic pollution problem went viral and garnered worldwide support. Every year, millions of tons of plastic enter the ocean. A significant percentage of this plastic drifts into large systems of circulating ocean currents, also known as gyres. Once trapped in a gyre, the plastic breaks down into microplastics and becomes increasingly easier for marine life to mistake for food.
Going after the plastic with vessels and nets would be costly, time-consuming, labor-intensive and lead to vast amounts of carbon emissions and by-catch. That is why The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive system, moving with the currents - just like the plastic - to catch it. The system consists of a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below. The floater provides buoyancy to the system and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath. As the system moves through the water, the plastic continues to collect within the boundaries of the U-shaped system.
"For society to progress, we should not only move forward but also clean up after ourselves."
- BOYAN SLAT, CEO & FOUNDER
By deploying a fleet of systems, The Ocean Cleanup has estimated to be able to remove 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 5 years’ time. The concentrated plastic will be brought back to shore for recycling and made into durable products. The revenue gained will help fund the cleanup expansion to the remaining four ocean gyres.
In preparation for full-scale deployment, The Ocean Cleanup organized several expeditions to map the plastic pollution problem in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to an unprecedented degree of detail. The team simultaneously advanced its design through a series of scale model tests, including prototypes deployed in the North Sea 2016, 2017 and 2018. The first beta cleanup system was deployed from San Francisco Bay on September 8, 2018, and was towed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to put the technology to the test. After System 001’s first mission, it was towed back to shore for upgrades. The team is now working on improving the system based on the lessons learned in the patch and expects to redeploy within the next few months.
Awards & Recognitions
Scientific Advisory Board
- Prof. Dr. Richard Spinrad Marine Technology & Oceanography, Marine Technology Society
- Prof. Dr. Alex Oude Elferink International Law of the Sea, Utrecht University
- Prof. Dr. Gerhard J. Herndl Ecology and Biological Oceanography, University of Vienna
- Prof. Dr. Mirek Kaminski Offshore Structures, Delft University of Technology
- Frederik Gerner Chairman on behalf of The Ocean Cleanup