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. 


The Circular Explorer represents our commitment to protecting the Earth’s oceans and rivers and accelerating the circular economy to preserve our ecosystems. We are on a quest for broad-based impact and data-driven solutions to drive circularity.

The Circular Explorer is based on three pillars:







The Circular Explorer team demonstrates how the vessel's conveyor belt collects plastic pollution from the water. 

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 also organizes 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.

Researchers from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute gather data on plastic pollution aboard the Circular Explorer.

Circular Explorer project manager, Christine Bellen, explains how the vessel enables us to build progress for people and the planet.

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. 

Tackling marine pollution with a circular solution

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:

Plastic production

380 million

metrics tons of plastic produced annually

Plastic recycling

9 %

of total global waste is recycled

Trash in oceans

5 trillion

pieces of trash are floating in our oceans

Plastic in oceans

150 million

metric tons of plastic waste in our oceans

Continued plastic pollution

8 million

metric tons of plastic added to our oceans every year

The future of our oceans


year plastic will outweigh fish in our oceans at current rate


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

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.

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.

We are working with an academic partner to optimize our data collection using artificial intelligence (AI). With AI, we can identify different types of waste without the need for manual sorting – improving efficiency.

The Circular Explorer program is also scaling up the training of 300 early-career researchers and citizen scientists in the field of plastic pollution. This includes skills development and helping build public conservation awareness. 


Solar panels

The solar panels on the Circular Explorer can be tilted up to 33° and turned 360° 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 adjust up to 33°
Conveyor belt

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

The intercepted floating marine litter is then transported up to the boat for manual pre-sorting. A secondary sorting to further classify the collected wastes happens on land. Recyclable plastics are sent to local partners and converted into new products.

All remaining plastics that cannot be recycled are then used as an alternative energy source through Geocycle’s co-processing technology.

  • Length: 12.00 meters
  • Width: 8.00 meters
  • Draft: 0.70 meters
  • Weight: 7.0 tons
  • Lifetime of boat: 25 years
  • Custom onboard system traps, collects and sorts plastic waste
  • Fully operational through solar power
  • Maximum speed of 9.7 knots
  • Cleaning capacity: 21,000 m2/hour
  • Waste collection capacity: 4,300 kg/day
  • Material: aluminum
  • 100% recyclable design
  • Lightweight yet stable catamaran construction
  • Designed for a long lifecycle

our partners

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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

The Circular Explorer on its educational journey in Hamburg
Holcim Circular Explorer Educational Workshops
Circular Explorer: The Plastic Problem
One Earth - One Ocean's Günther Bonin Delivers Inauguration Speech in Hamburg
Solar Impulse Foundation's Bertrand Piccard Delivers Inauguration Speech in Hamburg
Holcim's Jan Jenisch Delivers Inauguration Speech in Hamburg
The Making of Circular Explorer
Christine Bellen, Holcim Philippines on ANC