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Born27 July 1994 (age 26)
Delft, Netherlands
OccupationInventor, entrepreneur
Known forThe Ocean Cleanup
AwardsThiel Fellowship

Boyan Slat (born 27 July 1994)[1][2] is a Dutch inventor and entrepreneur.[3] A former aerospace engineering student,[4][5] he is the CEO of The Ocean Cleanup.[6]

Initial interest in plastic pollution[edit]


In 2011, aged 16, Slat came across more plastic than fish while diving in Greece. He decided to devote a high school project for deeper investigation into ocean plastic pollution and why it was considered impossible to clean up. He later came up with the idea to build a passive system, using the circulating ocean currents to his advantage, which he presented at a TEDx talk in Delft in 2012.[7][8]

Slat discontinued his aerospace engineering studies at TU Delft to devote his time to developing his idea. He founded The Ocean Cleanup in 2013, and shortly after, his TEDx talk went viral after being shared on several news sites.[7]

'Technology is the most potent agent of change. It is an amplifier of our human capabilities', Slat wrote in The Economist. 'Whereas other change-agents rely on reshuffling the existing building blocks of society, technological innovation creates entirely new ones, expanding our problem-solving toolbox.'[9]

The Ocean Cleanup[edit]

In 2013 Slat founded the non-profit entity The Ocean Cleanup, of which he is now the CEO.[6] The group's mission is to develop advanced technologies to rid the world's oceans of plastic.[10] It raised US$2.2million through a crowd funding campaign with the help of 38,000 donors from 160 countries.[11] In June 2014, the Ocean Cleanup published a 528-page feasibility study[12] about the project's potential. Oceanographers Kim Martini and Miriam Goldstein declared the concept unfeasible in a technical critique[13] of the feasibility study on the Deep Sea News website, which was cited by other publications, including Popular Science[14] and The Guardian.[15]The Guardian reported that, as of March 2016, the Ocean Cleanup was continuing to test and refine the concept.

Since the Ocean Cleanup started, the organization has raised $31.5million in donations from entrepreneurs in Europe and in Silicon Valley, including Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.[16][17]

Cleanup systems[edit]

Dubbed Systems 001 and 002, the first and second systems encountered various technical failures, with System 001 suffering structural stress damage and breaking in two at one point. However, in 2019, System 001/B, which was a redesign of System 001, successfully collected 60 bags of garbage.[18]

The Interceptor[edit]

At an unveiling of a new cleanup system dubbed The Interceptor,[19] Slat cited research from the company which showed that 1,000 of the world's most polluted rivers were responsible for roughly 80% of the world's plastic pollution. In an effort to 'close the tap' and drastically reduce the amount of plastic entering the world's oceans, The Ocean Cleanup had devised a barge-like system that was completely solar powered and was aimed to be a scalable solution that could be deployed around the world's rivers. As of mid 2020, Interceptors have been deployed in Indonesia and Malaysia, and are prepared to be deployed in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Sailors clean a beach in Garcia.
  • In November 2014 Slat was awarded the Champions of the Earth award of the United Nations Environment Programme.[20]
  • HM King Harald of Norway awarded Slat the Young Entrepreneur Award in 2015.[21]
  • Forbes included Slat in their 2016 '30 under 30' list In 2016.[22]
  • He was selected for a Thiel Fellowship, a program started in 2011 by venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. It gives $100,000 to entrepreneurs 22 years old and younger who have left or postponed college to work on their start-up.[16]
  • In February 2017, Reader's Digest appointed Slat European of the Year,[23] and the Dutch magazine Elsevier awarded him Nederlander van het Jaar 2017 (Dutchman of the Year 2017).[24]
  • In 2018, Slat was awarded the Leonardo da Vinci International Art Award and Euronews award 'European Entrepreneur of the Year'.[25]


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  1. ^Finger, Tobias (24 June 2014). 'The Ocean – Dieser Student will die Weltmeere vom Plastikmüll befreien' [The Ocean: This student wants to rid the seas of plastic waste]. Umwelt [environment] (in German). WiWo Green.
  2. ^Winter, Caroline (16 September 2014). 'This Dutch Guy Now Has the Funds to Build His Ocean Cleanup Machine'. Bloomberg Businessweek.
  3. ^Boyan, Slat (20 October 2019). 'Researchgate'. Researchgate.
  4. ^Pabst, Josephine (24 October 2014). 'Idee eines 20-Jährigen könnte die Ozeane entmüllen'. Die Welt (in German).
  5. ^'Boyan Slat'. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  6. ^ ab'About'. The Ocean. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  7. ^ ab'How it all began'. The Ocean Cleanup. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  8. ^'How the oceans can clean themselves: Boyan Slat at TEDxDelft'. YouTube. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  9. ^Slat, Boyan. 'The Economist'. The Economist.
  10. ^'About'. The Ocean Cleanup. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  11. ^'Crowd Funding Campaign'. The Ocean Cleanup. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  12. ^Slat, Boyan (June 2014), How the oceans can clean themselves: a feasibility study(PDF), archived from the original(PDF) on 23 April 2018, retrieved 24 February 2018 This is version 2.0 of the study. It states (p. 9) that version 1.0 is available on request.
  13. ^Martini, Kim; Goldstein, Miriam (14 July 2014), The Ocean Cleanup, Part 2: Technical review of the feasibility study
  14. ^Gertz, Emily (16 July 2014), Does 'The Ocean Cleanup' Stand Up To Peer Review?, Popular Science
  15. ^Kratochwill, Lindsey (26 March 2016), 'Too good to be true? The Ocean Cleanup Project faces feasibility questions', The Guardian
  16. ^ abCaminiti, Susan (22 April 2017). 'Why Peter Thiel believes in this 22-year-old's dream to clean up the oceans'. CNBC. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  17. ^'The Ocean Cleanup Raises 21.7 Million USD in Donations to Start Pacific Cleanup Trials'. The Ocean Cleanup. Archived from the original on 2 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  18. ^Bendix, Aria (12 December 2019). 'A device invented by a 25-year-old is finally catching trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It hauled 60 bags to shore to turn into new products'. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  19. ^Boyan Slat unveils the Interceptor River Cleanup system | Cleaning Rivers | The Ocean Cleanup, retrieved 7 June 2020
  20. ^'2014 Laureate'. United Nations Environment Programme. 2014. Archived from the original on 17 November 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  21. ^'Young Entrepreneur Award 2017'. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  22. ^'30 Under 30 2016 Europe: Science and Healthcare'. Forbes. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  23. ^'European of the Year: Boyan Slat Wants to Clean Up the Oceans'. Reader's Digest. 31 January 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  24. ^'Dit is de Nederlander van het Jaar 2017 -'. (in Dutch). 6 December 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  25. ^'European Leadership Awards: meet the winners'. euronews. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 25 May 2018.

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External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boyan Slat.
  • How the Oceans Can Clean Themselves — Boyan Slat at TEDxDelft
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