- The Ocean Cleanup recently reported raising $21.7 million since November 2016. This puts their total amount raised since 2013 at $31.5 million.
- Funding came from high-profile names such as Marc and Lynne Benioff, Peter Thiel, the Julius Baer Foundation and Royal DSM.
- The money will be used to start large-scale trials of the Ocean Cleanup's plastic collection prototype in the Pacific Ocean later this year. More details are expected to be announced at a May 11 press conference in the Netherlands.
The improbable success of this concept from entrepreneur Boyan Slat, 22, has drawn plenty of attention since it started four years ago, but this latest round of funding marks a significant milestone in the Ocean Cleanup's efforts so far. While the marine plastic problem is often viewed as intractable, Slat believes it can be mitigated by installing long floating barriers that will passively capture the material for recycling. The project employs 65 engineers and researchers, but aside from a recent profile on HBO's Vice documentary series they have been fairly quiet this year.
Their last notable milestone was an aerial reconnaissance mission in October to capture more data about the scale of plastic pollution in the Pacific. At a press conference following the flight Slat said, "It's really quite safe to say that it's worse than we thought." Though in a recent tweet about the investment haul Slat seemed more optimistic, writing, "But wait until you see what we'll unveil next week. It's like magic :)"
While some may be skeptical of the claims, or Ocean Cleanup's strategy, few other viable alternatives have been found and new research only makes the situation look worse. A recent study estimated that the Arctic Ocean — an area rarely trafficked by humans — may contain at least 300 billion individual pieces of plastic. The scope of this problem has been enough to forge bipartisan consensus in the U.S. Congress. A recently introduced Senate bill would direct more funding and resources to states coping with ongoing plastic pollution on beaches and waterways.