What Is The Ocean Cleanup?

The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit engineering environmental organisation based in the Netherlands, that develops technology to extract plastic pollution from the oceans and intercept it in rivers before it can reach the ocean. It was founded in 2013 by Dutch Inventor Boyan Sat when he was 18 in his hometown Deft, Netherlands. The ocean cleanup’s team consists of more than 90 engineers, researchers, scientists, and computational modelers working daily to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.

The Ocean Cleanup Mission

Every year, millions of tons of plastic enter the oceans primarily from rivers. The plastic afloat across the oceans – legacy plastic – isn’t going away by itself. Therefore, solving ocean plastic pollution requires a combination of stemming the inflow and cleaning up what has already accumulated. The Ocean Cleanup is designing and developing cleanup systems to clean up what is already polluting our oceans and to intercept plastic on its way to the ocean via rivers. A significant percentage of the plastic that enters the oceans from rivers and other sources during a transfer that can take many years, drifts into large systems of circulating ocean currents, also known as gyres. Once trapped in a gyre, the plastic will slowly break down into microplastics and become increasingly easier to mistake for food by sea life.

The Solution

Going after the plastic in the garbage patches with vessels and nets would be costly, time-consuming, labor-intensive, and lead to vast amounts of carbon emission and by-catch. That is why The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive ocean cleanup technology, that moves with the currents – just like the plastic – to catch it. By deploying a fleet of systems, The Ocean Cleanup is estimated to be able to remove 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years. The concentrated plastic will be brought back to shore for recycling. Supporters of the mission can register to get early access to the first products made of verified ocean plastic. The revenue gained will help fund the cleanup expansion to the other four ocean gyres. The Interceptor™ is the first scalable solution to prevent plastic from entering the world’s oceans from rivers. It is 100% solar-powered, extracts plastic autonomously, and can be placed in the majority of the world’s most polluting rivers. Together with corporations and governments from all over the world, we plan on tackling 1000 of the most polluting rivers all over the world in the next five years. The Ocean Cleanup is a project; it is our ultimate goal to reach a 90% reduction of floating ocean plastic by the year 2040.

Why It's So Important

Our models indicate that a full-scale system roll-out could clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years.  Research shows the majority of plastic in the gyres by mass is currently in the larger debris. By removing the plastic while most of it is still large, we prevent it from breaking down into dangerous microplastics. Combining the cleanup with source reduction on land paves the road towards a plastic-free ocean by 2050.