Circular Explorer

The Circular Explorer is a 100% solar powered recycling catamaran, designed to recover marine plastic waste in the world’s oceans and rivers. It is currently operating in Manila Bay in the Philippines. 

To accelerate its impact, the Circular Explorer is building awareness through educational activities to empower next-generation changemakers in the local communities and pushing the boundaries of marine science to explore new solutions with leading marine institutes. 

Rising marine pollution

Our oceans play a vital role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystems – from the food we eat to the air we breathe, as well as marine biodiversity. This balance is being threatened by pollution, and the statistics are alarming:

  • Scientists estimate that our oceans currently contain over 150 million metric tons of plastic waste
  • Each year, an estimated 8 million more metric tons of plastics end up in our oceans
  • There are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans
  • We currently recycle only 9% of the 381 million metric tons of waste we produce
  • At the going rate, the plastic in our oceans will outweigh fish by 2050

Sources: Ellen McArthur Foundation, National Geographic, OECD, WWF

The circular economy solution

To tackle marine pollution and clean up our oceans, we need to shift to a circular economy based on the principles of reduce, recycle, regenerate. That’s why we launched the Circular Explorer – a first of its kind solution. The Circular Explorer collects on average 500 kg of marine litter per day. 

To maximize our impact, the Circular Explorer includes an education program to empower students and local communities to lead the shift toward circular living through educational toolkits, events and awareness raising campaigns. Taking a science-driven approach, the Circular Explorer has also partnered with the University of the Philippines Marine Institute to advance ocean research through research collaboration and capacity-building initiatives.

The Circular Explorer’s mission

The Circular Explorer represents our commitment to protecting the Earth’s oceans and accelerating the circular economy to preserve our ecosystems. With its “Ambition 2025,” the Circular Explorer is on a quest for broad-based impact and data-driven solutions. 

The Circular Explorer is based on three pillars:


Putting the circular economy in motion

The Circular Explorer cleans up rivers and coastal areas. Each day, we collect an average of 500 kg of marine litter and transform it into new resources or alternative energy sources together with local recycling partners. 

The Circular Explorer team is also organizing coastal clean-ups with local partners and NGOs.


Educating for change

The Circular Explorer is an education center empowering local communities to take action to save our oceans. Together with One Earth - One Ocean and local partner institutions and communities, we raise awareness and educate people about the importance of marine preservation and the circular economy. We develop and share customized learning toolkits and education workshops to communicate best practices for taking action locally. Our on-board sessions and clean-up events are an opportunity for the public to get involved and be part of the solution.


Advancing marine science

The Circular Explorer is a floating scientific laboratory and mobile research center. On our journey, we collect data to help us learn more and create better solutions for the future. 

We partner with leading scientific institutions, researchers and students to contribute to marine research projects. 

Mapping water quality and plastic pollution

Using specialized sensors installed on the vessel, we collect data and map water quality and microplastic pollution. We then use and share this data to explore scientific solutions and encourage better recycling and waste management practices. This data will allow scientists to present qualitative and quantitative findings to policymakers and help them create policies to help keep Manila Bay clean and healthy. 

The program is also scaling up the training of 300 early-career researchers and citizen scientists in the field of plastic pollution through capacity-building activities and contributing to building public conservation awareness. We are working with an academic partner to optimize our data collection using artificial intelligence.

Circular Explorer close up

Solar panels

The solar panels on the Circular Explorer can be tilted up to 33 degrees and turned 360 degrees to follow the sun. The power is stored in batteries on board the boat that drives the electric motor.

  • 60 m2 area
  • 360° rotatable to follow the sunlight
  • Solar panels adjustable up to 33°
Conveyor belt

The conveyor belt is lowered into the water when cleaning starts.

Plastic waste is then transported up to the boat for manual sorting. Single sort split plastic is recycled for reuse in cooperation with local partners and converted into new products.

The remaining plastic that is unable to be recycled will be used as an alternative energy source.

Learn more about the Circular Explorer

Circular Explorer stats & facts

  • Length: 12.00 meters
  • Width: 8.00 meters
  • Draft: 0.70 meters
  • Weight: 7.0 tons
  • Material: aluminum
  • Lifetime of boat: 25 years
  • Cleaning capacity: 21,000 sqm/hour
  • Waste collection capacity: 4,300 kg/day
  • Fully operational through solar power
  • Maximum speed of 9.7 knots
  • 100% recyclable design
  • Lightweight yet stable catamaran construction
  • Designed for a long lifecycle
  • Custom onboard system traps, collects and sorts plastic waste



Our partners




Media library

Press release
7 July 2022: Holcim launches the Circular Explorer in Manila Bay to preserve marine ecosystems in the Philippines
Press release

21 July 2021: The Circular Explorer starts its journey to protect the ocean

Circular Explorer in front of the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg

Circular Explorer in front of Hamburg Skyline

Circular Explorer embarks on its journey

Education Workshop Hamburg

Education Workshop Hamburg

The Plastic Problem

Inauguration Speech Hamburg - Günther Bonin (oeoo)

Inauguration Speech Hamburg - Bertrand Piccard (Solar Impulse Foundation)

Inauguration Speech Hamburg - Jan Jenisch (Holcim)

The Making of Circular Explorer

Christine Bellen, Holcim Philippines on ANC