Boyan Slat (27 July 1994) is a Dutch inventor and entrepreneur, passionate about creating megaprojects to address planetary problems. He is the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup; a non-profit organization developing and scaling technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. The organization aims to put itself out of business, with the goal of removing 90% of floating ocean plastic by 2040.
While on vacation in Greece at 16 years old, Boyan was SCUBA diving and saw more plastic bags than fish in the sea, which left him thinking “Why can’t we just clean this up?”.
He started looking into the problem and possible technology solutions to clean up ocean plastic pollution, dedicating a school project to developing his idea further. He presented his ideas at a TEDx Conference in late 2012. In February 2013, the TEDx video suddenly went viral, and the momentum that followed allowed Boyan to drop out of his Aerospace Engineering degree to officially found The Ocean Cleanup.
Armed with only €300 of saved-up pocket money, Boyan dropped out of his Aerospace Engineering degree at Delft University of Technology and started detailing his plan, but initially struggled to make progress. However, this all changed a few months later when Boyan’s TEDx presentation was picked up and publicized by various news blogs – pushing the video around the world and causing the idea to go viral. This momentum allowed Boyan to assemble an initial team of volunteers and launch a crowdfunding campaign that funded a year-long feasibility study – the first real step in bringing Boyan’s technological solutions to life. This is how The Ocean Cleanup started.
In the following years, Boyan led the organization through the initial scientific work, testing and concept iterations leading to successfully achieving Proof of Technology in 2021 for both river interception and cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Today, The Ocean Cleanup is actively cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and has deployed Interceptors in some of the world’s most polluting rivers to prevent plastic reaching the ocean in the first place. To see our progress, visit the Impact Dashboard.
“When people say something is impossible, the sheer absoluteness of that statement should be a motivation to investigate further.”
The Ocean Cleanup’s headquarters are in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with over 120 employees from more than 30 countries. In the role of CEO, Boyan focuses on strategy and relationships with key partners as well as serving as a figurehead for our crew, but continues to be deeply involved in the organization’s scientific and technological work, through which he has co-authored around a dozen scientific papers and multiple patents.
1994: Born in Delft, the Netherlands
1997: Builds his first ‘invention’, a chair
2004: Nearly burns down house due to a chemistry experiment gone wrong
2009: Sets a Guinness World Record for ‘launching most water rockets simultaneously’ (213)
2011: Dedicates high school science project to ocean plastic pollution
2012: Enrolls in Aerospace Engineering at the Delft University of Technology
2012: Presents initial plan to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch at TEDxDelft
2013: Drops out of university, founds The Ocean Cleanup as a non-profit organization
2013 – present: CEO of The Ocean Cleanup