From cleaning the oceans to cleaning the plastic rivers: the new Boyan Slat project

The founder of The Ocean Cleanup initiative, designed to clean the oceans of plastic, extends his project to the rivers.

The young Dutchman Boyan Slat has extended his fight against plastic pollution to the rivers. Already 25 years old – he was 18 when he devised his project to clean the oceans – Slat has decided to pay attention to the way waste is dumped into the seas. The inventor has come to say that rivers are the arteries through which plastic flows to reach the oceans.

With this metaphor, he wants to highlight that 9 million tons of plastic are poured into the oceans through the rivers every year. Fighting this is imperative if you want to face the global problem of ocean pollution. And this is precisely one of the criticisms of Slat for his project. The Ocean CleanUp was only treating part of the problem, perhaps the most visible or the biggest, but they were the symptoms. However, he ignored the causes.

Now, with the new machine, which Slat presented in Rotterdam, the cause of ocean pollution is also discussed. The instrument to do so is a vessel designed to intercept the plastic that flows downstream. It works by guiding the waste so that they enter inside the boat. Through a conveyor belt, the remains are taken to the unmanned boat guts, where they accumulate. When the tank is full, the machine notifies those responsible for emptying it.

The vessel, crowned with solar panels to operate without external energy input, is prepared to divert large remains, such as tree trunks, which frequently fall into rivers.


At the moment it is being tested in three countries, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Another machine will soon arrive in the Dominican Republic. In total there will be four machines designed to address the plastic problem marginally in these countries. But it’s only the beginning. Slat asked for collaboration to have more of these devices in the future. He stressed that it is much cheaper to treat the plastic problem in this way than to let things stay the same.

Attack the origin
The young inventor believes that rivers are responsible for 80% of the plastic pollution that reaches the oceans. As for the machines, the one that has been tested in Malaysia works for a month and a half and, according to Slat, has behaved well.

For the presentation in Rotterdam of these boats, hundreds of rubber ducks were released and the machine presents almost all of them. Its price is 700,000 euros, although it is expected to fall in the coming years.

This initiative of Slat comes after his project to clean the oceans has undertaken his second attempt. The first, just over a year ago, did not have the expected success. Now the improvements in the device are expected to alleviate one of the major pollution problems on the planet and specifically reduce the so-called garbage island in the Pacific.

Images: The Ocean CleanUp

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