Speech by the Minister for the Environment, Sharon Dijksma, inaugurating the test project for Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup, Scheveningen

Toespraak van staatssecretaris Dijksma (IenM) bij de lancering van de testinstallatie van Boyan Slat en zijn bedrijf The Ocean Cleanup. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

'A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.' If there’s anyone this quote applies to, it’s certainly Boyan Slat and his team at Ocean Cleanup!


Enterprising young people like you fill me with optimism about the major global challenges of the 21st century. Climate change, the lack of clean water, our endless appetite for scarce natural resources –¬ these are challenges that we can and must solve together. Through innovation, passion and smart teamwork.

You saw a problem, and you’re doing something about it. And with your passion you’ve persuaded people all over the world to join you. You probably know the consumer campaign 'Plastic Heroes'. Well, you are a real plastic hero to me.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Ocean Cleanup project inspires many people around the world. And it inspires me to push ahead with my own ambitions for a better world.

So I’ll be continuing my work to implement the results of the historic Paris climate summit. Also I intend to draw up an ambitious programme for the circular economy. And of course...I want to tackle the ever-growing plastic soup.

Like Boyan I’ll be working with other parties: other countries, other governments, businesses and research institutions, and civil society. We have to deal with these global challenges in the Netherlands, Europe and the rest of the world. We need to shoulder our responsibility and make the world a cleaner and more beautiful place. That is the key to success. Otherwise we’re just lonely dreamers, adrift at sea.

Fortunately, I already see a lot of different parties – companies, government and private individuals – taking action. And that’s a good thing because we need a whole army of Boyans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m proud to support this project. Just like my colleague Henk Kamp, minister of Economic Affairs and Jan Hendrik Dronkers of Rijkswaterstaat. Rijkswaterstaat will by example clear a space in the North Sea to test this technology. And let’s not forget the substantial private investors who made this project possible.

It shows that cleaning up plastic soup and closing the plastic loop are our common goals. We will and must support sustainable, promising innovations wherever we can. Because without financial, logistical and moral support, good ideas often go nowhere.

I don’t have to convince this audience that plastic doesn’t belong in our oceans. There’s no confusion on this point: it must be cleaned up!

Of course, preventing pollution in the first place is an even better option. So we need to focus more on circular product design. We have to step up recycling and improve the way it’s done. And we have to increase consumer awareness of the impact of their choices.

Plastics are a big issue in the Netherlands today. And that’s a good thing! From cleaning up marine litter and reducing the use of microplastics in cosmetics, to collecting and recycling plastic waste and designing sustainable plastic products.

We need to get results fast. And we need to work together to achieve them.

That's why we're teaming up with the business community to launch some exciting initiatives. For example, there are Green Deals on Clean Beaches, Marine Waste and Fisheries for a Clean Sea. The fisheries sector, seaports and the waste processing industry are party to these deals.

I want to accelerate this process also at an international level.

2 days ago, EU environment ministers, led by the Dutch Presidency, called on the European Commission to waste no time in introducing robust measures against marine litter and micro-plastics.

And in November Boyan, Prime Minister Rutte and I are going to Indonesia, together with a trade delegation. We’re going to see if we can help the Indonesians combat plastic soup. And we’ll be promoting the circular economy as an opportunity for sustainable development.

I hope other countries will follow our lead. Climate trade missions are one way to share knowledge and achieve our global goals to make the world a better place.

Another initiative is the European conference on plastics, which is taking place later this year. We will share knowledge and take concrete action on plastics with our fellow EU member states. By working together, I hope we can achieve breakthroughs. Organising this conference is a good step forward.

I will be there, of course. And I hope to see all of you there as well.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, thanks to Boyan’s highly innovative plan, plastic soup is getting the attention it deserves. And more importantly, we're working on a solution.

Boyan, I hope you continue to make your dream reality. And possibly new dreams as well. And I hope that many other young entrepreneurs will follow your example. Because today’s dreams are tomorrow’s solutions!

Let’s make them come true!