What: The Ocean Cleanup
Who: Boyan Slat
Where: Delft
Since: 2013
Source: The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup

Every week the volume of two Empire State Buildings worth of plastic floats into the oceans, where it damages ecosystems, damages economies and enters the food chain, thereby potentially damaging us humans. Yearly this is about 8 million tons of plastic. Part of this accumulates in 5 areas where currents converge: the gyres. At least 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are currently in the oceans (Eriksen et al., 2014), a third of which is concentrated in the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Cózar et al., 2014).


The technology

Instead of going after the plastic using boats and nets – which would take many thousands of years and billions of dollars to complete – The Ocean Cleanup has developed a passive system which allows the ocean currents concentrate the plastic itself. Once the plastic is concentrated at a central point, it can be collected for recycling.

The Ocean Cleanup’s passive technology enables the ocean to clean itself. A V-shaped array of floating barriers, attached to the seabed, will catch the plastic deposited there by the natural ocean currents.

The Ocean Cleanup’s feasibility study indicates that a single 100 kilometer-long cleanup array could remove 42% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over a period of 10 years. In our most conservative estimate this amounts to over 70 million kilos of plastic, at a cleanup cost of 4.53 Euro per kilo.