Boyan Slat Youngest Winner of the United Nation’s Champions of the Earth Award for Inspiring Efforts to Cleanup the Ocean

Eminent British Environmental Scientist Sir Robert Watson Receives Science and Innovation Award

Geneva, 17 November 2014 – Boyan Slat, founder of the innovative The Ocean Cleanup initiative and Eminent Environmental Scientist Sir Robert Watson were announced today as winners of the UN’s top environmental accolade, the Champion of the Earth award.

The Inspiration and Action award, which has been won in previous years by Brian McClendon of Google Earth and Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food, was awarded to Boyan Slat for his inspirational efforts to mobilize support to rid the ocean of marine litter.  

Slat was still in secondary school when he came up with the idea of utilizing the natural ocean currents and winds to passively concentrate and transport floating plastic along solid floating barriers towards a central collection platform.

According to the Ocean Cleanup’s recently published feasibility research, they estimate that almost half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can be removed using this technology in ten years’ time.

It is hoped that The Ocean Cleanup initiative can contribute to ongoing worldwide efforts to tackle the escalating problem that widespread plastic waste is posing to marine life.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “The marine litter problem is global in scale and intergenerational in impact, exacting tremendous ecological, economic, and social costs around the world. According to UNEP research conservative estimates of the overall financial damage of plastics to marine ecosystems now stand at US$13 billion each year.”

“Boyan Slat is inspiring people, organizations and governments to find solutions to the escalating threat of plastic debris in our oceans, while also serving as a reminder to us all that more work needs to be done to improve the capacity of all countries to better manage solid waste and to make production and consumption patterns far more sustainable so that we produce less waste, and put less pressure on our increasingly degraded ocean."

Slat has also been recognized as one of the 20 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs Worldwide by Intel EYE50. Slat’s presentation at TEDxDelft 2012 has been viewed by over 1.6 million people and he has managed to raise over US$2 million through crowdfunding (with the support of over 38,000 funders from 160 countries) to fund the next phase of The Ocean Cleanup initiative.

Boyan Slat said, “I’m incredibly excited and honoured to receive this award on behalf of everyone at The Ocean Cleanup, a team of more than 100 people worldwide. Although we are still several years away from implementing the technology, I’m truly grateful that our hard work is already being recognized. We’ll continue to do our utmost to fulfill the expectations, and initiate the largest ocean cleanup in history.”

Sir Robert Watson, Eminent British Environmental Scientist
Also from Europe, Sir Robert Watson, eminent British environmental scientist, won the award for science and innovation by promoting the science behind ozone depletion, global warming and the impacts of biodiversity loss.

Highly regarded as one of the world’s leading atmospheric chemists, Sir Robert has received multiple awards for his work, including the Award for Scientific Reviewing from the National Academy of Sciences in 1992, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility in 1993, the Asahi Glass Blue Planet prize in 2010 for promoting the science-policy interface, and in 2012, a knighthood for his service to the government of the United Kingdom.

Sir Watson played an important role in the regulation efforts of ozone depletion and global warming by aiding the process of developing and chairing unified assessments for Stratospheric Ozone depletion, and for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  He also chaired the Board of Directors of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and has testified to the US Congress on numerous occasions regarding global environmental issues.

Sir Robert Watson said, “To be here tonight with so many people who devote their lives to the welfare of this planet is truly an honour. As a scientist I have been so encouraged by the positive news that we are on track to have a restored ozone layer by the middle of this century. This award is testament to what can be achieved when scientists and policymakers collaborate to achieve common goals.”

Winners of UNEP's 2014 Champions of the Earth Award include:
H.E. Tommy Remengesau, Jr. President of Palau; H.E. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Sixth President of the Republic of Indonesia; Sir Robert Watson, eminent environmental scientist; Boyan Slat, Founder of The Ocean Clean-up Initiative and Mario Molina, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a leading scientist behind the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer.

The award covers the following categories: Policy Leadership, Entrepreneurial Vision, Lifetime Awardees, Science and Innovation, and Inspiration and Action.
Winners will be honoured by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at an awards ceremony attended by UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bundchen at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. on 19 November 2014.

For more information on UNEP’s Champions of the Earth visit

Notes to Editors
About Champions of the Earth
Champions of the Earth is the United Nations' flagship environmental award launched in 2005 that recognizes outstanding visionaries and leaders in the fields of policy, science, entrepreneurship, and civil society action. Whether by helping to improve the management of natural resources, demonstrating new ways to tackle climate change or raising awareness of emerging environmental challenges, Champions of the Earth should serve as an inspiration for transformative action across the world. Past laureates have included past laureates Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva, Vinod Khosla, and many other such exemplary leaders on the environment and development front.
Visit for more details.

About UNEP
UNEP is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP's mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
UNEP is an advocate, educator, catalyst and facilitator promoting the wise use of the planet's natural assets for sustainable development. It works with many partners, UN entities, international organizations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, business, industry, the media and civil society. UNEP's work involves providing support for: environmental assessment and reporting; legal and institutional strengthening and environmental policy development; sustainable use and management of natural resources; integration of economic development and environmental protection; and promoting public participation in environmental management.

About Awards Sponsors

Guangdong Wealth
Guangdong Wealth Environmental Protection is a leading supplier of water purifying products and water treatment integrated solutions in China. The company practices a business model that puts social welfare before economic interests, using the concept “let the sky be bluer and the water clearer”. The company invests in environmental scholarships for young university students, organizes clean-up operations, and donates tonnes of purifying tablets to tackle pollution in rivers in Guangdong and Beijing.

The Smithsonian Institution
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum and research complex. It consists of 19 museums, a zoological park, nine research facilities, and numerous research programs around the globe in the areas of science, art, history, and culture. Its mission is to preserve America’s diverse heritage, to increase knowledge and to share its resources with the world. The Smithsonian's work helps to build bridges of mutual respect and understanding of the diversity of American and world cultures.

The UN Foundation
The United Nations Foundation links the UN’s work with others around the world, mobilizing the energy and expertise of business and non-governmental organizations to help the UN tackle issues including climate change, global health, peace and security, women's empowerment, poverty eradication, energy access, and U.S.-UN relations.

National Geographic
The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

The Washington Post
The Washington Post is a leading news publisher that sits at the intersection of business and policy. Through its heritage and pedigree, it has been a pioneer at the forefront of objective, credible, award-winning journalism. An audience of influential leaders depend on the insight and analysis of the organization to make critical decisions that impact their business. The Washington Post paves the path for success through technology and engineering by bridging readers from today into the future of journalism. The 137 year old media company is forging new media consumption experiences for our readers across all platform.

Please see contact information below for Laureates:

For Boyan Slat - Jessie Bullens - - +31 20 575 40 10

Professor Robert Watson —

For more information, please contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head, UNEP News & Media. Tel.: +254 713601259, E-mail:

Hugh Searight, News & Media, UNEP News Desk.  Tel: +254 726705561

Niamh Brannigan, News & Media, UNEP News Desk.  Tel: +254 717733348,