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Meet the genius who’s cleaning up our oceans

With conventional methods, it would take 79,000 years to rid the ocean of debris.

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In 2013, Boyan Slat noticed there were more plastic bags than fish in the water around him. So, at the age of 16, he founded The Ocean Cleanup, an enormous - but absolutely vital - effort to rid our ocean of plastic.

DSM is a proud partner of The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic debris, microplastics and ghost nets – a term used to describe lost fishing gear and netting. To do this, The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive drifting system that naturally moves with the ocean currents. It’s estimated that the system will be able to clean up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years.

About The Ocean Cleanup

Millions of tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. The Ocean Cleanup - with the support of DSM and other partners, including the Dutch government – is designing and developing the first feasible method to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. A significant percentage of the ocean’s plastic drifts into large systems of circulating ocean currents, known as gyres. Once trapped in a gyre, the plastic breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics – causing tremendous harm to marine life that mistake the particles for food.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located in the North Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, is considered the oceans’ largest collection of trash. By deploying a fleet of floater systems with a screen underneath, The Ocean Cleanup has estimated that 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can be removed in just 5 years. The plastic that will be collected from the passive systems will be recycled and sold to B2C companies – with the revenue helping to fund the expansion of the clean-up efforts to four other ocean gyres.

In 2015, The Ocean Cleanup launched a prototype of the passive system in the North Sea, 23 km off the coast of Scheveningen, The Netherlands. Through additional research and testing, The Ocean Cleanup advanced its design and deployed further prototypes into the North Sea in 2016 and 2017. Additional system trials are scheduled to start in 2018 off the coast of California and the first cleanup system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is scheduled for mid-2018.

DSM has been involved from the beginning when the first designs showed a system moored to the seabed at depths of up to 6km to where the designs are today: agile floating systems that utilize lines made with Dyneema®, the world’s strongest fiber™. Throughout The Ocean Cleanup’s journey, DSM has provided materials expertise through the DSM Material Science Center, as well as hands-on experience in maritime applications, particularly, rope and screen design. In the current design, Dyneema® is being used in tow lines as well as closing lines. 

A shared passion for sustainability

Like The Ocean Cleanup DSM shares a passion for sustainability through technology.  “DSM has identified sustainability as one of our company’s key drivers,” says André van Wageningen, DSM Dyneema Sustainability Director. “We want to contribute to a better world, but we can’t do it by ourselves, so we collaborate with partners like Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup.”

DSM works towards sustainability in both its partnerships and manufacturing processes. “Dyneema® fiber is made from a very low carbon footprint feedstock material,” notes Edwin Grootendorst, Global Business Director at DSM Dyneema, “our material is used to manufacture products that are ultra- lightweight and extremely durable – all of which combines to deliver the lowest carbon footprint per unit of strength in a fiber product available today. We call it ‘the greenest strength™’.”

DSM’s continuous efforts to fine-tune clean manufacturing processes, ongoing research and development to enhance the properties of Dyneema®, and industry partnerships to advance contributions to a circular economy, like the one with The Ocean Cleanup, all combine to make Dyneema® “the greenest strength™”. 

“Dyneema® means there is no need to compromise between high performance and sustainability. Now or in the future,” states Grootendorst. “And we share The Ocean Cleanup’s vision to contribute to a more sustainable world through technology and innovation.”

“Human history is sort of a long list of things that were impossible and then were done. I’ve been an inventor for nearly all my life. Just the feeling you get when you think about something and then see that become reality. There’s really no better feeling than that, than the act of creation.”

Boyan Slat