International developments

Plastic pollution is a cross-boundary problem, which makes it difficult to combat. Efforts to address plastic pollution are fragmented, thus failing to deal with the problem at a systemic level. Now, finally, the plastic crisis has been receiving increasing attention from international policymakers. In particular, marine litter and microplastics have been on the agenda of the UN Environment Assembly for several years. The Ocean Cleanup aims to assist policymaking processes by providing input based on our operational learnings and scientific research. In September 2022, the United Nations granted us consultative status, which enables us to contribute to Multilateral Environmental Agreement processes.

Plastic pollution on a beach in Guatemala
Plastic pollution on a beach in Guatemala

UN Global Plastics Treaty

The UN Global Plastics Treaty will be a historic, new, legally binding global instrument to address plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. This treaty is a key moment for realizing a plastic-free ocean. In November 2022, we shared our vision for the treaty during the first meeting of the negotiations:

  1. We need collective action to remove legacy plastic pollution in the Ocean
  2. We must monitor riverine plastic emissions and set clear targets for the reduction and elimination of such emissions by 2040
  3. Innovation must play a role in ending plastic pollution from source to sea.

Find out more about our engagement in the Treaty here.

Plastic catch offshore during The Ocean Cleanup's cleanup mission
Offshore crew of The Ocean Cleanup documenting plastic fragment catch
  • Carbon emissions

    Plastic in the ocean may accelerate climate change, as plastic pollution impacts the ocean’s ability to produce oxygen and capture carbon.

  • Society & Economy

    According to an economic assessment conducted by Deloitte, the yearly economic costs due to marine plastic pollution are estimated to be up to 19 billion USD.

  • Environmental impact

    Plastic pollution in the world's oceans is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time, impacting over 900 marine species, out of which more than 100 are critically endangered.

  • Human Health

    Plastic pollution does not only impact sea life; it also carries toxic pollutants into the food chain – a food chain including us humans. Research indicates that exposure to microplastics may be toxic for humans.

Innovation Alliance

Bridging the gap between innovation and policymaking

Innovators, solutionists, and startups are underrepresented in multilateral environmental agreements. This is why we co-founded together with rePurpose Global Inc. The Innovation Alliance for a Global Plastics Treaty: a cross-sector alliance to unite and promote the role of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship in the Global Plastics Treaty. Read the vision statement to learn more about key actions to change the plastic pollution lifecycle.

Apply to join and see the objectives of the alliance below:

  • A voice for innovation

    Ensure that technology & business model innovations across the entire plastics value chain are considered & prioritized in the Treaty.

  • A seat at the table

    Facilitate representation of innovators at Treaty negotiations & events to help bring their unique perspectives to policymakers.

  • Build awareness

    Create awareness about the Global Plastics Treaty, as well as the state and progress of tangible solutions against plastic pollution

  • Data-driven policymaking

    Aggregate and systematize existing data on plastic pollution impacts currently held by individual innovators across the value chain in order to guide policy decision-making and enable treaty monitoring & evaluation.

  • Power of partnership

    Unify the innovation ecosystem that has so far been tackling the plastic problem within individual silos and increase engagement between public and private entities to move the needle on plastic pollution.

  • Promote environmental justice

    Prioritize sustained economic & employment opportunities, especially with vulnerable communities, waste worker communities & promote the value of indigenous knowledge to accelerate innovative solutions against plastics.

International Collaborations

UNDP Partnership

In February 2023, The Ocean Cleanup signed a memorandum of understanding with UNDP to work together on eliminating plastic pollution in oceans and rivers. In this partnership, The Ocean Cleanup provides technology, expertise, and data monitoring, while UNDP helps find opportunities for local collaboration and government support. Each contributes to a whole-of-society solution to plastic pollution. All to ensure that countries can develop their societies without sacrificing their environments.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner and The Ocean Cleanup founder & CEO Boyan Slat sign the Memorandum of Understanding at UN Headquarters in New York.
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner and The Ocean Cleanup founder & CEO Boyan Slat sign the Memorandum of Understanding at UN Headquarters in New York. Photo credit: United Nations Development Programme | Fouad Juez

Submitted to the Rule-of-Law

Ahead of starting operations in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for the first time in 2018, we signed a unique agreement with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a voluntary commitment to respect all applicable environmental safeguards, marine activity, and plastic management regulations, subjecting ourselves to the highest environmental standards currently in force. This agreement states that the activities of The Ocean Cleanup are closely aligned with the ambitions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands regarding innovation, sustainability, and ocean policy. The international community can hold the Kingdom of the Netherlands accountable for the activities of The Ocean Cleanup.

State secretary Stientje van Veldhoven and Boyan Slat, signing an agreement
State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven and Boyan Slat, signing the agreement

UN Ocean Decade

2021-2030 is designated as the Ocean Decade by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission with the objective to achieve “transformative ocean science solutions for sustainable development, connecting people and our ocean”.

The UN Ocean Decade endorses initiatives that contribute to the 10 Decade Challenges. Two projects by The Ocean Cleanup are officially endorsed: The Ocean Cleanup Science and Technology Programme and the Automated Debris Imaging System of Ocean Plastic (ADIS).

The UN Ocean Decade endorsement demonstrates The Ocean Cleanup’s contribution to the immediate priorities of the Ocean Decade, the collaborative nature and global impact of our work.

Interceptor 011, Kingston Harbour, Jamaica. This is an Interceptor Guard.
The Ocean Cleanup has so far deployed 15 Interceptors designed to suit the characteristics of their respective rivers, aiming to prevent trash flowing into the oceans Interceptor 011, Kingston Harbour, Jamaica. This is an Interceptor Guard.
System 03 in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Ocean Cleanup is cleaning up plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest known accumulation zone of plastic. This patch is halfway between Hawaii and California Pictured: System 03. The Ocean Cleanup plans to scale up to a total of 10 systems in order to effectively clean up this garbage patch
The ADIS (Automated Ocean Debris Imaging System) helps in monitoring and detecting plastic in the ocean
The ADIS (Automated Ocean Debris Imaging System) counts and locates floating large plastics (>0.5 m) encountered.

Institutional affiliations

Accelerate pollution solutions

Plastic pollution is, luckily, a topic that is gaining priority for many. Let’s join forces to make a bigger impact.

  • Plastic pollution in Rio Las Vacas, Guatemala

    Get in touch

    If your goal is to reduce plastic pollution either through policy changes or through cleanup, get in touch to discuss how we can work together.

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    Citizens of the world

    Plastic pollution impacts us all, regardless of where you live. Help bring awareness to our research and cleanup operations by following and sharing our updates on social media. Tip: LinkedIn is where we post the most about global affairs.

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