The United Nations' lead agency on international development is partnering with Ocean Cleanup to address plastic waste in oceans and rivers around the world.
The U.N. Development Programme and the Dutch nonprofit group signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on projects.
Ocean Cleanup uses a collection system made with flexible plastic components to corral garbage into retention areas for removal while UNDP supports programs to eradicate poverty and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The goal of the partnership aimed at stopping plastic from leaking into marine ecosystems is twofold: to advance policies and behavior change that improve plastic waste management systems and reduce plastic pollution; and to accelerate the deployment of interception technologies in rivers.
Ocean Cleanup's technology is comprises a long, U-shaped barrier that guides plastic into a retention zone for removal. The floating system can capture plastic pieces just millimeters in size up to large debris like fishing nets.
The partnership with UNDP coincides with negotiations for an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner calls plastic pollution an existential threat to the health of the world's oceans and billions of people depending on marine resources for food and income.
"Eliminating plastic pollution in all its forms is key to protecting human and planetary health and safeguarding sustainable development," Steiner said. "This alliance is an important step to curb the flow of plastic pollution into oceans and rivers but also to raise awareness, support sound policymaking and trigger behavioral change along the entire plastic value chain."
UNDP and Ocean Cleanup already have been tackling plastic pollution together in the Dominican Republic.
"We believe that, through this alliance, we can help accelerate the deployment of our technologies to eliminate plastics from the oceans and rivers, as well as support broader policies aimed at waste management and reducing plastic pollution," Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat said.
The group is transitioning from System 002 to System 03, which will be similar but have a much larger, 1.5-mile span and deeper skirt — from 10 feet to 13 feet — attached to increase capture efficiency.
Ocean Cleanup modeling predicts 10 full-size systems will be needed to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is between Hawaii and California.
After fleets of systems are deployed into every ocean gyre, combined with source reduction, Ocean Cleanup says it should be able to remove 90 percent of floating ocean plastic by 2040.