09 Sep 2018 Press release Oceans & seas

Revolutionary ocean cleanup by Champion of the Earth Boyan Slat kicks off

  • Champions of the Earth laureate Boyan Slat and his Ocean Cleanup team launched their revolutionary marine litter cleanup system today.
  • Research shows that a scaled-up fleet of 60 systems could eventually clean up 50% of the Patch in the next 5 years.

San Francisco, 8 September 2018 – UN Environment Champion of the Earth Boyan Slat and his Ocean Cleanup team launched the long-awaited, revolutionary marine litter cleanup system – expected to tackle 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic marine debris – at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco today.

System 001, as the first deployable model of the connected floating trash receptacles is dubbed, made its way out of the San Francisco Harbor towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch under the watchful eye of hundreds of supporters, press, scientist and policymakers, where it will start to tackle one of the largest accumulations of marine litter on earth.

After four years of research and adjustments to the groundbreaking system, the design currently entails a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below. Together, the U-shaped floater and skirt are carried by the oceans’ natural movements (currents and waves), passively catching plastic debris along the way.

The system has initially been towed 240 nautical miles into the Pacific Ocean for trials. After completion of the trails, the 600-meter long device will travel the remaining 1000 nautical miles to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. According to research done by the Ocean Cleanup, a scaled-up fleet of 60 systems could eventually clean up 50% of the Patch in the next 5 years.

The now 24-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat made waves around the world 6 years ago, when he first developed his plans for a system to tackle the massive patches of plastic debris floating in our oceans. For his relentless efforts to chart new territory in the quest for a solution to the ever-growing global problem of plastic marine debris, UN Environment awarded Slat the Champions of Earth Award in 2014.

Every year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic leaks into our oceans. Besides washing up on our beaches and shorelines, plastic marine debris accumulates in five garbage patches around the world. The largest one of these, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is located between Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States.

NOTES TO EDITORS

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world. 

About the Ocean Cleanup: 

Founded in 2013, by then 18-year-old Boyan Slat, the Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. By utilizing the ocean wind, waves and currents, their passive drifting systems are estimated to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years’ time. https://www.theoceancleanup.com

About Champions of the Earth

The annual Champions of the Earth prize is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment. Since being founded thirteen years ago, the awards have recognized 84 laureates – ranging from leaders of nations to grassroots activists – in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society. Visit the website here: http://web.unep.org/champions.

For more information, please contact:

Keith Weller, UN Environment, Head of News and Media, keith.weller[at]un.org