The Ocean Cleanup wins Katerva – the Nobel Prize of Sustainability


A new breed of companies are showing how innovation can be scaled for both business opportunities and global good. Led by resolute and independent thinkers, these companies are making dents in conventional ways of thinking to defy and fight for global change.

The Katerva Award identifies 10 of these companies as finalists annually in its global competition –– the Nobel Prize for Sustainability –– with The Ocean Cleanup, as the winning company this year. (Impact investors: Katerva has done the due diligence for you.)

Some 3,500 ideas were submitted to the Katerva Award council last year and The Ocean Cleanup was selected as this year’s winner –– as a force to reverse plastic pollution at sea, using a massive current-powered sieve.

The Ocean Cleanup –– conceived in 2013 by Boyan Slat from the Netherlands (pictured above), then only 19-years-old ––  is taking on the biggest ocean remediation challenge in history: to remove the “soup” of plastic bits floating in our oceans.

Not too soon, either. Plastic pollution is choking marine life —at least one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from plastic pollution. And it is affecting human health, too, as toxins from plastic enter our food chain –– and bodies.

Powered by waves in the middle of the sea, The Ocean Cleanup is in essence a massive sieve which passively collects sea plastics from up to 3 meters (or 10 feet) deep. Once retrieved, the plastic can be recycled into new products or fuel. Feasibility studies indicate that one 100 km (or 63 mile) array could remove 42 percent of the Great Pacific garbage patch in only 10 years.

“Being recognized by Katerva means that The Ocean Cleanup is trusted to succeed in its mission and its drive for innovation. We are deeply honored and hope that the Award and Katerva’s support will go a long way towards reaching our dream of clean oceans,” says Slat.

The Katerva Award runner-up this year is Salt Farm Texel, a proven agriculture technology that can grow food on land that was previously considered to be unsuitable for farming.


The Katerva Award winner will be accelerated with the help of the Katerva community: a global alliance that includes among its members the world’s most distinguished companies, people, policy makers and non-profits committed to improving the state of the world.

“I just love the systemic approach of Katerva: we not only identify amazing projects such as The Ocean Cleanup, we have also organizations and individuals in place who can help accelerate such projects, and bring them to their full potential, sooner,” says Dr Bettina von Stamm, Director of the Katerva Award. ” I just love the passion and commitment Katerva inspires.”

Katerva, founded in 2010 by business intelligence strategist Terry Waghorn, is a not-for-profit organization that finds, evaluates and accelerates disruptive, sustainable innovations that will show measurable impact on this planet in the next 10 years.

Katerva comes from the Latin word Caterva which means “crowd.” Katerva’s distributed networks of CEOs, heads of state, ministers and policymakers, experts and academics, international organizations, youth, and technology innovators are fundamental to finding and then accelerating technologies for dramatic, positive changes that can be seen in our lifetime.

Follow Katerva on Facebook or Twitter @katerva and find the nominee profiles at

Complete list of this year’s Katerva Award category winners:

Behavioral Change:

Winner: Fairphone is working to improve the life-cycle of cell phones by sourcing conflict-free minerals and upcycled plastics to including fair factory wages in phone manufacturing.


Finalists: World Community Grid, Sustainability Consortium, GoodGuide


Winner: Social Progress Index is crucial to portraying a country’s potential for social progress, beyond meeting the population’s basic needs.


Finalists: Better World Books, Essmart, Institute for Economics and Peace, Oradian


Winner: The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive, plastic collection system to remove plastic pollution from our oceans.


Finalists: Ecosia, Greenwave, Tree-Nation, Harbo Technologies


Winner: Salt Farm Texel has created novel advances in saline-resistant crops to counter the loss of arable soil and freshwater resources.


Finalists: Wakati, ThinkFoodGroup, Oberon Nutrinsic, Muufri

Gender Equality:

Winner: Akili Dada helps young women and girls aged 13 to 35 earn the essential qualifications and skills needed to take their place in decision-making roles in society.


Finalists: I Am That Girl, Global Fund for Women, No Ceilings, Ruwon Nepal

Human Development:

Winner: Nanoly has developed a chemistry solution so that vaccines can survive without refrigeration.


Finalists: Mine Kafon, MOM Inflatable Incubator, Nano Membrane Toilet, Braigo

Materials & Resources / Water:

Winner: Nebia Shower uses rocket technology to create an immersive cloud of mist that cleans the body and saves water.


Finalists: Lifestraw, Step Forward Paper, SCiO, Benthic Labs

Power & Energy:

Winner: GravityLight uses a weight to run a small generator to power an LED. It costs nothing to run and does not require sunlight or batteries to recharge.


Finalists: StoreDot, LanzaTech, General Fusion, Pollinate Energy


Winner: Qualcomm Halo provides wireless, electric vehicle charging. No cables needed.


Finalists: Blablacar, Holland Container, Proterra, Ray C Anderson Memorial Highway

Smart Cities:

Winner: Living Breakwaters builds layered breakwaters around cities which are constructed of ecologically engineered concrete to attenuate wave action, create a habitat for fish, and provide calm waters for recreation on land.


Finalists: Visible Good, Kite Bricks, Centre for Active Design, Tube Barrier

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