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Water Today Title September 21, 2018

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Features

Update 2018/8/13
Plastics


PLASTIC WHALE COMPANY CLEANING PLASTIC OUT OF AMSTERDAM CANALS



This story is brought to you in part by

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By Michelle Moore

The Plastic Whale Company's mission is two-fold: to rid the world's waters of plastic, and to turn that plastic waste into something of value.

It started in 2011 with the goal of building one boat out of plastic materials recovered from the Amsterdam Canals where they operate. Now the organization has a fleet of ten boats and continues to grow.

Amsterdam's canals and harbours cover a quarter of its surface. According to Amsterdam Tourism, the canals are the single biggest tourist attraction in the country. Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, over 3 million people visit Amsterdam's Canals every year.

The canals were built for water management, defence and trading. They allowed traders to travel inland and all around the city, but now so can the ocean plastic. From the Atlantic Ocean, to the North Sea to the IJmuiden, plastic travels all the way into the city and its canals.

Now the world's first professional plastic fishing company is trying to change all that. Head of Public Relations for Plastic Whale Pauline De Boer explained to this reporter how it all started.

She said the founder of the company "Marius Smit went on a one-year trip around the world together with his wife. During this trip, he was shocked by all the plastics that he found on deserted beaches, beautiful islands and in the sea. When he came back, he noticed that plastic pollution was not only a far-away problem, but that it also started in his own backyard..."

Smit began by organizing a public event that invited people to fish for plastic on the canals with the hope of building a boat from the materials recovered. The event was a huge success and afterwards companies asked if they could use the boat for team-building exercises.

Now companies wanting to organize team building events on one of their plastic-fishing boats is one of the more common requests the company receives. They also organize a school program that offers educational packages to teachers and take hundreds of kids plastic-fishing each year.

De Boer said "up until May we have collected over 146000 bottles and close to 3000 bags of other waste. This summer was super busy though, so expect even bigger numbers soon!"

In February of this year they launched Plastic Whale Circular Furniture, a company that makes and sells sustainably designed furniture made from the recovered plastic in the canals. The company assembles the furniture in a way that makes it possible to reuse the materials again when the piece has reached the end of its lifespan.

De Boer explained "we needed a new lunch table because our team was expanding - but just buying a new one didn't really fit us ... And this gave us a next idea... There are so many companies that want to make a positive and concrete change that come plastic fishing with us already, and they all need office furniture!"

As popular a tourist attraction as the canals are, it makes sense that Plastic Whale would attract tourists as well. People vacationing in Amsterdam can pitch in for the day and help keep the canals clean for future visitors.

De Boer said they take thousands of people every year. Last year 6000 people helped clean the plastic in the canals with Plastic Whale, but De Boer said they're breaking records this year with 2700 people participating in June alone.



m.moore@watertoday.ca





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