Boyan Slat, 2020 FPdGi International Award

Slat was chosen for tackling some of the global environmental problems posed by pollution from plastics in the world's oceans and rivers with innovation, entrepreneurship and a constant quest for technological solutions

Boyan Slat (The Netherlands, 1994) remembers how, aged just sixteen, he came across more plastic than fish while he was diving in Greece. It had such an impact on him that he decided to do a project at school to study plastic pollution in the oceans and find out why it was so difficult to clean it up. After this work, Boyan began to devise a passive system which could help clean up plastic in the world’s oceans by harnessing their currents. In 2012, Boyan presented his system in a TEDx talk and it received so much interest that he decided to abandon his aerospace engineering studies to dedicate all his time to developing his idea. A year later he founded The Ocean Cleanup, of which he is currently CEO.

The Ocean Cleanup’s mission is to develop a series of advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. After it was set up, the company managed to raise 2.2 million dollars through a crowd-funding campaign which received funds from almost 38,000 donors in 160 countries. In June 2014, The Ocean Cleanup published a study into the project’s potential and oceanographers Kim Martini and Miriam Goldstein conducted a technical analysis of this research which was published on the Deep Sea News website and cited by important media such as Popular Science and The Guardian.

Currently, The Ocean Cleanup has raised more than 30 million dollars in donations from entrepreneurs in Europe and Silicon Valley (USA), such as Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. Boyan estimates that, with the development of new designs, half of the great Pacific garbage patch could disappear within five years at minimal cost. The project, which began in mid-2018 in San Francisco Bay (USA), is gradually introducing new systems and it is hoped that over the course of this year it will be possible to implement them on a large scale. 

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