The Ocean Cleanup Receives Over $30 Million To Remove Waste In Pacific Waters

Boyan Slat's vision of cleaning up the oceans is in full force after his company has raised over $31.5 million since 2013. After testing a prototype in the North Sea, their focus will be on the Pacific waters later this year and full-scale operation in 2020.


May 24 2019, Updated 3:45 a.m. ET

10 percent of all our waste we create is plastic. That doesn’t seem like a large number initially, but it expands quite greatly when put into perspective. In a different way, as water bottle consumption continues to grow in America, over 35 billion of those are thrown away. Much of that waste enters our oceans and is the cause of mass pollution in the waters. A Dutch company has a goal to eliminate as much of that waste as possible, and they’re well on their way after raising over $30 million in funding.

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Known simply as “The Ocean Cleanup,” this group was started up by entrepreneur Boyan Slat. He explained his vision at a TED talk five years ago when he was just 18 years old. Through natural ocean currents, a long V-shaped screen would push through the water to pick up plastic while sea animals would still be able to go under the obstacle with the current. All this plastic would be pushed to a specific area, where it would then be plucked out and recycled.

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This would be a major improvement compared to the traditional standard. The official website claims that it “would take thousands of years and tens of billions of dollars to complete,” but with updated technology and using this process, they “could remove about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years.”  That area is being the focus for the release because pollution is estimated to be 700,000 square kilometers. 

With running through the ocean’s currents, there will be no need for an additional energy source. The screen will simply move along with the water. The process will be geared to be autonomous -- everything is expected to run on its own from the cleanup process to pulling out the debris from the water. Also, the screens will vary in size to accommodate what needs to be accomplished.

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Proper funding has finally been achieved, some of it thanks to big names like PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. Back in 2014, the company launched a crowdfunding campaign and was able to raise $2.2 million through the help of over 38,000 people. After updating that they’ve received $21.7 million to put the total to $31.5 million, The Ocean Cleanup announced that they will reveal scale model test results from a prototype it created last year on Thursday, May 11th.

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The prototype was launched in the North Sea with a goal to see how the process worked in adverse weather conditions. With a full-scale launch planned for the Pacific Ocean, these storms in the North Sea are generally stronger than even the biggest generated in the ocean. This prototype was 100 meters long and was done 23 kilometers, or a little over 14 miles, off the coast.

There are two major milestones the company still has planned. First, they plan on releasing a pilot system later this year in the Pacific Ocean. This will increase efficiency as they’ll be able to do multiple tests. Finally, by 2020, they hope to officially begin the process of cleaning up the debris from the waters.


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