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One Earth – One Ocean e.V. is honored with Federal Award ecodesign 2019


Waste recovery ship Sea Elephant by gate-Startup OEOO is prize winner 2019

Sea Elephant, the waste recovery ship by environmental organization One Earth – One Ocean e.V. (OEOO), whose feasability study had been finished in May 2019, receives this year’s Federal Award ‘ecodesign’ of the catecory concept. During a solemn ceremony in Berlin, Günther Bonin, founder of the NGO, received the prize by Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for the environment, nature protection and nuclear safety.

The Federal Award ‘ecodesign’ represents the highest governmental honor for ecological design in Germany. It is granted on a yearly basis by the Federal Ministery for the environment, nature protection and nuclear safety, the Federal Environmental Agency and the International Design Center Berlin and awards products, services and concepts which distinguish themselves by outstanding ecological quality, an innovative approach and high design quality. In the category ‘concept’, the jury consisting of design and environment experts had selecetd OEOO’s implementation concept of the pilot system Sea Elephant prize winner 2019 out of more than 300 submissions.

It need no longer be emphasized that plastic waste in the waters is one of the most serious environment problems of our society worldwide. That is why the non-profit organization One Earth – One Ocean e.V. (OEOO) located in Garching and Kiel has already been developing its concept of a “marine garbage collection” in the Oceans since 2011. In 2018-2019 a team of experts consisting of marine construction designers, systems engineers, environmental engineers and project developers guided by Dr. Harald Frank within 10 months has developed an implementation concept to clear coastal marine pollution caused by plastic and has proved its technical, economical and legal feasability. For years, OEOO has been supported by the charitable Röchling Stiftung from Mannheim, who also has financed and facilitated the implementation concept of the Sea Elephant. Already in 2016 the garbage collection ship “Sea Cow” by OEOO had been among the nominees for the Federal Award ‘ecodesign’.

“We are very happy that our Sea-Elephant-system has been elected this year’s winner of the Federal Award ‘ecodesign’ in the category concept,” explains Günther Bonin, founder and CEO of the organization One Earth – One Ocean e.V. “Although the topic plastic waste in the oceans is omnipresent nowadays, there is a worldwide lack of sustainable and implementable concepts that make it possible to quickly act against the pollution caused by plastic in the oceans. Utopia do not help us any further. Our concept is a well-thought-out and pragmatic solution statement, which has already partly been proven and tested and which is continuously optimized. We do not only collect, but also sort the plastic waste aboard of the Sea Elephant so as to return it into the cycle of materials.”

“When sea cows and sea elephants clash and the sea elephant grabs the sea cow with its onboard crane, you think you are in the middle of a B-movie”, deems Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parlamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry for the environment, nature protection and nuclear safety and member of the jury. “But One Earth – One Ocean’s marine garbage collection can be part of the solution of one of the biggest global environment problems: marine littering, the pollution of our oceans.”

Marine garbage collection

According to estimates, over 140 m tons of plastic waste are in the oceans worldwide, and every year at least 10-15 m tons add up. Prognoses estimate a duplication of the marine waste amount by 2025. The global annual damages caused by plastic waste in the waters are specified by the UN by 13 billion USD. Long-term effects and secondary damages for men, beast and ecosystems, especially by micro plastic within the food chain, are not even considered yet.

The concept of the “marine garbage collection” provides a flottilla of special work ships with conveying equipment for the collection of plastic waste in estuaries and off-shore areas. A first so-called “Sea Cow” was built in 2016 and has been in action since, an upgraded version is to be finalized by 2020. The ‘Sea Cows’ deliver the collected waste to the ‘Sea Elephant’, a waste-recovery-ship and central component of the “marine garbage collection”. The sea elephant is a remodelled multi-purpose cargo ship which will provide facilities for sorting, crushing, processing and pressing of marine waste. A team of experts consisting of marine construction designers, systems and environmental engineers as well as project developers and economists had already developed an implementation concept last year, which now has received this year’s Federal Award ecodesign.

Aboard the sea elephant, oceanic plastic gathered by the organization’s waste-collector-ships is compressed and baled as mono-material and recycled later on. Within a few years, – provided that industrially suitable depolymerization facilities will be available – plastic is planned to be oiled directly aboard, too. The pilot system aims at a processing capacity of about 20t/day. In further stages of Expansion, this system is then to be developed for commercial operators with up to 200t/day.

An animation of the marine waste collection and OEOO’s sea elephant can be watched here

Already in 2013 the environmental organization OEOO had been awarded the renowned GreenTec Award for their concept of the “marine garbage collection”, Europe’s most important environment and economic award. In 2016 the first nomination for the Federal Award ecodesign followed, the highest reward for ecological design in Germany, at that time for the waste-collecting-ship Sea Cow. Enterprises and organizations who are interested in getting engaged in the implementation of the Sea Elephant-pilot System, are welcome to address OEOO.

Röchling Stiftung GmbH
Röchling foundation is intensely focussed on the topic plastic and environment. They support research projects as well as civil initiatives which contribute to a responsible handling of plastics in terms of a sustainable recycling economy. Röchling foundation regard themselves not only as mere support partner, but are also interested in building up new cross-sector cooperations and networks. As with this topic, the foundation initiates activities of their own, too, which contribute to a holistic understanding and integrated solutions of the global challenge plastic and environment.

Röchling foundation was established in 1990 by the entrepreneur family Röchling. The family also owns the Röchling company group, which counts among the internationally leading suppliers of heavy-duty-plastics for the automotive industry, industrial applications and medical engineering.


One Earth – One Ocean e. V.
The non-profit environment organization One Earth – One Ocean e.V. (OEOO) located in Munich-Garching and having offices in Hamburg, Kiel, Hong Kong, Battambang/Cambodia and Rio/Brazil aims to relieve waters from plastic litter as well as from oil and other pollutants. Already today, oceanic pollution caused by plastic waste has reached alarming dimensions. According to a UN survey, they weight of plastic waste will surpass the weight of fish by 2050, if we do not countersteer.

That is why since 2011 OEOO has been working on the implementation and testing of their pilot concept of a “marine garbage collection”. The founder of OEOO is Günther Bonin, former owner of a successful IT company and passionate sailor since his early life. His concept divides into several stages: In a first step, plastic waste is collected in the waters by special collector ships. Litter sorting and baling take place aboard of a converted multi-purpose cargo ship, recycling and disposal are carried out ashore. Recyclable plastics are baled into mono-materials. Besides, plastic waste shall be oiled and converted into energy in future.

What sounded like an idealist’s utopia in the beginning, today assumes precise shape. Collector ships of different sizes are now on duty in the Baltic Sea, Hong Kong and Cambodia. In spring 2019 a feasability study for the sea elephant pilot system was introduced, by 2021 it is to be realized. Notable enterprises and private persons, too, amongst them Röchling Stiftung GmbH, Deutsche Telekom AG and Daimler AG support OEOO in different ways.

In 2013 OEOO’s concept of marine garbage collection was awarded the renowned GreenTec Award, Europe’s highest environment and economic award. In 2016 the first nomination for the Federal Award ecodesign followed, the highest prize for ecological design in Germany. In 2018 the association was nominated for the Ocean Tribute Award by Prince Albert II. of Monaco, which honors the most innovative and most sustainable ideas in terms of environment protection. And in 2019 Günther Bonin received the special prize of the Gruner & Jahr Spa Award.