DESMI is taking on new, smarter solutions to put a stop to ocean pollution.

Sustainable Development Goals at play

• SDG 14: Life below water
• Target 14.1: Reduce marine pollution
• By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, particularly from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

The oceans of the world are choking on plastic. Every year, a staggering eight million metric tons wind up in the oceans. A recent study estimates that about 90 per cent of the total plastic debris entering the oceans from across the world comes from the 10 most polluting rivers. Rivers can carry trash over long distances and connect land surfaces with the oceans, making them a critical factor in combatting sea pollution.

For DESMI, a company with more than 40 years of experience in oil spill response, this presents a new opportunity, explains Neha Mehta, head of the company’s new EnviRo-Clean division:

“With our many years of experience with mitigating oil spills, we often receive feedback from our customers saying that they also remove other types of surface debris while removing oil from the water surface, thus making the water pollution free,” she explains. “We have experience from the oceans and the seas and even from fast-moving waters such as rivers. Instead of just cleaning the oceans, we want to prevent the plastic from reaching the oceans. Therefore, we are moving closer to the source. In the most literal sense of the word, we want to go upstream.”

However, taking on this challenge has required considerable modifications to the existing equipment, says Neha Mehta:

“Firstly, the equipment has to be adjusted to target waste collection rather than oil spills. Secondly, the protection of the local marine life is equally important. We are potentially moving heavy equipment into fragile ecosystems, so we must be very, very careful. Most of our new designs are based on lighter versions that are easy to handle and capable of withstanding various weather conditions."

Neha Mehta, head of the company’s EnviRo-Clean division

DESMI has had many conversations with government officials around the world, and a pilot project is being set up in India. Here, the company is not only focused on cleaning the rivers but also on how a circular economy approach can be achieved through a complete water waste management chain.

Being part of the SDG Accelerator for SMEs has helped DESMI analyse various business potentials and figure out how to make the company’s vision more reachable in the future.

“The thing we love about this project is that we are taking environmental clean-up to the next level,” says Neha Mehta. “It makes very little sense to clean a river just to move the pollution somewhere else. What we want to do instead is to process the waste on site to generate energy, using known and proven technology while creating local jobs. This allows us to bring a complete waste management value proposition to countries or regions that face this challenge. For both the rivers and the oceans, this process could have a major effect.”

For Neha Mehta and the DESMI team, it is still too early in the process to set up tangible commercial goals, but the company is optimistic that the pilot project can be replicated and commercialised, which also lies at the very heart of the Sustainable Development Goals:

“What we realised is that most countries have already incorporated the SDGs into their national development plans. Coming from the outside, this makes the conversation so much easier. Having the support and the encouragement from our UNDP partners also facilitates trust and cooperation and helps us build new relationships with some of the key government stakeholders.”

Neha Mehta, head of the company’s EnviRo-Clean division

How will the clean-up of polluted rivers look in five years from now? Neha Mehta predicts that the solutions from DESMI will be a game changer in the industry:

“We are working on an innovative, module-based solution where you just open the container and then you are ready to go. This is a major shift from traditional equipment that usually requires considerable time for installation. With a short time for set-up and decommissioning, the cost is potentially very low, but the impact is huge. This is the promise we are working hard to deliver on.”

This is how DESMI contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals

  • DESMI is developing equipment that can be used for cleaning some of the world’s most polluted rivers.
  • The solution will stop plastic waste from flowing into the oceans from where it is even more difficult to restrain.
  • Besides cleaning the rivers, DESMI is planning to introduce a new waste management system to process the waste on site.

Facts about DESMI

  • Founded in 1834.
  • Global geographical presence.
  • The DESMI EnviRo-Clean division is rather new, but uses mother company (DESMI Ro-Clean) resources in order to expand globally.

“We have a responsibility towards the next generations to clean up the mess that we have made, and DESMI has the capabilities to participate and make a difference in this major task.”

Henrik Knudsen
, CEO, DESMI Ro-Clean.

SDG Accelerator for SMEs

  • SDG Accelerator for SMEs is an innovation programme for small and medium-sized industrial enterprises created by the UNDP in 2018 with support from the Danish Industry Foundation. The programme focusses on developing and accelerating business solutions addressing the Sustainable Development Goals. The programme is implemented in collaboration with Deloitte and is tested in Denmark in 2018-2019 with 30 SMEs, after which the aim is to roll out in other countries.


Søren Schou

Innovation Lead

+45 30 93 43 05

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