BY APB Staff on 22 Feb 2023

The non-profit's cleaning system has removed 200,000kg of plastic from the Pacific Ocean

Ocean Cleanup founder Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup has marked its 10th anniversary this week, by sharing a look-back highlights reel on Twitter. 

The video recalls the origins of the Dutch environmental charity, which started when founder Boyan Slat was diving in Greece in 2011 and saw more plastic bags than fish. “I thought: Why can’t we just clean this up?'” says Slat.

At the age of 18, Slat dropped out of his aerospace engineering studies to focus fully on his idea and presented his vision in a TEDx talk called How the oceans can clean themselves.

The video of this talk went viral several months later, and the momentum that followed allowed him to officially found The Ocean Cleanup on February 15, 2013. 

Fast-forward ten years, and The Ocean Cleanup has since developed and scaled several different technologies to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the organisation employs a dual strategy: cleaning up the existing legacy plastic floating in the ocean while also addressing new emissions of plastic flowing into the ocean from rivers, using a portfolio of Interceptor Solutions.

The Ocean Cleanup’s pilot-scale ocean cleaning system, System 002, has been deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (located between Hawaii and California, and consisting of up to 100,000,000kg of plastic) since late 2021. It has so far removed close to 200,000kg of plastic that otherwise would have remained trapped for decades or more.

In rivers, The Ocean Cleanup aims to engage preventive measures to “close the tap” by intercepting additional plastic downstream before it can reach the ocean. Its Interceptor Solutions are currently deployed or trialling in eight countries around the world — the most recent deployments began operations in Los Angeles County (USA) and Kingston (Jamaica) in November and December 2022, respectively. So far, the organisation’s solutions have intercepted over 2 million kg of trash in rivers, keeping it out of our oceans for good.

In February, the charity revealed that Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia had donated US$25m to help support the launch of its latest ocean-cleaning system.

Take a trip back through the charity’s projects and milestones over the last ten years in this video originally posted on Twitter:

On Thursday, February 9, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and The Ocean Cleanup signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on eliminating plastic pollution in oceans and rivers around the globe.

The goal of the partnership is to reduce leakages of plastics into marine ecosystems by boosting policies and behaviour change aimed at advancing sound plastic waste management systems and reducing overall plastic pollution and accelerating the deployment of interception technologies in rivers to end marine plastic pollution.

The Ocean Cleanup signs MOU with UNDP

The Ocean Cleanup signs MOU with UNDP

Learn more about the strangest objects found in the Pacific Garbage Patch here.