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Airbnb co-founder commits $25M to remove plastic from the oceans


A total of 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris. Plastic debris causes severe injuries and death to marine animals when they ingest it or become entangled in it. Founded in Rotterdam, the international non-profit project, The Ocean Cleanup is a social impact-driven company that has developed a passive plastic capturing technology. 

To gather plastic from water bodies, this startup uses ocean currents. And to get rid of all the world’s oceans of plastic – it has now announced its largest private donation to date, a $25 million gift from Joe Gebbia, Co-founder of Airbnb and Samara and Chairman of 

The Dutch impact startup will use these funds to continue and expand its operations across oceans, rivers, recycling, and scientific research – and, in particular, to support the launch of System 03, the latest iteration of its ocean cleaning system, in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch later this year. 

As a result of the latest funding, The Ocean Cleanup will also be able to scale faster, remove pollutants more efficiently, and ultimately achieve its vision of restored oceans around the globe.

“As a non-profit project with a big mission, we cannot do it alone – we need financial contributions to achieve our objectives. Joe’s continued support of The Ocean Cleanup’s mission has a direct impact on our operations all over the world,” said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. “Thanks, in part, to his generous assistance, we are able to scale up our work in oceans and rivers, helping us reach our goal of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic. On behalf of the world’s largest ecosystem, we are immensely grateful for the support.”

The Ocean Cleanup develops and scales technologies to rid the oceans of plastic. By using a portfolio of Interceptor Solutions, the organisation addresses both existing legacy plastic in the ocean as well as new emissions of plastic flowing into the ocean from rivers. Ocean Cleanup’s pilot-scale ocean cleaning system, System 002, has been deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (located between Hawaii and California and containing up to 100,000,000 kilograms of plastic) since late 2021. To date, it has removed more than 200,000 kilograms (or 440,000 pounds) of plastic that would otherwise have remained trapped for decades.

By intercepting additional plastic downstream, The Ocean Cleanup attempts to “close the tap” before it reaches the ocean. Interceptor Solutions are currently deployed or being tested in eight countries around the world – the most recent deployments began operations in Los Angeles County (USA) and Kingston (Jamaica) in November and December 2022, respectively. Over 2 million kilograms (almost 4.5 million pounds) of trash have been intercepted by the organization’s technology so far.

“I’m proud to partner with The Ocean Cleanup in their crucial work to remove harmful plastics from our oceans,” shared Gebbia. “The Ocean Cleanup has created systems and technology that actually work at scale. In order for them to deploy across our oceans and rivers, they now need to scale their funding. It is my hope that this donation can inspire others to act.”

Gebbia’s use of design to solve problems led to the creation of Airbnb and Samara, and, his non-profit brainchild that provides housing to people in crisis. Gebbia continues to give back to causes that improve the quality of life for people and the planet. He serves on the board of Refuge Olympic Foundation, and the leadership councils for the Tent Partnership for Refugees and the UNHCR. This contribution expands on his giving to now include climate health.

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