In Amsterdam, many different agencies offer boat rides. The canals are full of boats with different logos. But only one operator has sustainability in mind while cleaning the canals, and that’s Plastic Whale. During the two-hour boat ride through Amsterdam’s canals, participants are handed fishing nets and fish trash out of the water while experiencing Amsterdam from a very special perspective.
Collecting Plastic In Amsterdam‘s Canals
Cleaning the canals of plastic and turning it into boats to fish for more. This concept has worked so well for Amsterdam-based NGO Plastic Whale since 2011 that not only have nearly 150,000 bottles been fished and 9 boats made from them over the years (as of August 2018), but so much plastic has now been gathered that it can be used to make furniture.
The specific numbers of 2019 are: 17.978 people went plastic fishing, 729 events took place all over the world. In the Netherlands, in Belgium, Germany, England and even in Japan. 287 unique companies went plastic fishing. With 1786 boats deployed, Plastic Whale rescued 40.500 PET bottles. In Amsterdam 11 Plastic Whale boats were on a mission and in Rotterdam 2 boats. There, plastic is fished out of the water in the old harbor while exploring the city.
Plastic Whale Foundation For Education
Plastic Whale recently started working with Sweepsmart, a sustainable waste management enterprise based in Bangalore that collects and recycles plastic waste to create local jobs with decent pay and work conditions, and reduce the amount of plastic on landfill sites. Plastic Whale donates 10 percent of all revenue of Plastic Whale Circular Furniture.
Furthermore, Plastic Whale offers educational programs for schools to raise awareness for the problem of worldwide plastic pollution. Thanks to the Plastic Whale Foundation, also 3307 children were educated.
What You Need To Know About The Tours
Who wants to participate, books via Airbnb the day of choice for 25 euros per person. This includes the two-hour trip, a snack from Amsterdam chocolate producer and supporter Tony Chocolonely‘s, water, and instructions and equipment during the boat trip.
Plastic Whale offers tours daily, even twice a day during high season. Meeting points are central points in the city that everyone can easily find. For example, the Homomonument or the main train station. Already a few minutes before the time two captains with a well recognizable Plastic Whale T-shirt are waiting.
Anyone who wants to do something good for the environment can take part. Previous experience is not necessary. At the beginning of the tour, there is a short instruction by the captains. Plastic Whale also offers tours for school classes and companies. Larger groups can also contact Plastic Whale at any time. For families with children, life jackets are distributed if necessary, but the tour is completely safe.
Amsterdam’s Canals Are Clean, Aren’t They?
At first glance, the canals of the Dutch capital are certainly clean. But if you look a little closer, especially between the boats and on the boundary walls, you will often find a multitude of plastic bottles, bags, and beer cans.
These are either carelessly thrown into the water or blown in by the wind. This even goes so far that ducks use the plastic waste to build nests out of it. The fact that Plastic Whale has been able to pull out about 150,000 plastic bottles and nearly 3,000 trash bags since 2011 is also pretty clear.
Plastic Whale often takes more than one boat out on its tours, making it a game of which team collects the most trash. Besides, each tour crowns a winner who finds the most bizarre item. Often condoms are found, but also bags with money or handbags with a car key to a Range Rover.
How To Use Less Plastic And To Help The Environment
In addition to an occasional boat tour with Plastic Whale, the organization gives some more advice on how to use less plastic and how to protect the environment:
- Don’t use plastic bags when doing your groceries. Don’t take extra plastic bags for fruit and vegetable, but use a jute bag instead.
- Invite your colleagues to a cleanup break: Take a trash bag and a pair of tongs and go for a walk during your lunch break. The fresh air is good for your health, too.
- Wash your clothes at 30 degrees and dry as much as possible on the clothesline. But also wash less often, a pair of jeans, for example, is better to hang out than wash too much to stay beautiful, and this way you also ensure that fewer microplastics end up in the water.
- Buy fewer clothes or rent clothes. Milieu Centraal calculated that if every Dutch person bought three fewer pieces of clothing a year, we would save just as much CO2 as if 2.1 million people ate vegetarian for a year.
- Buy new trendy clothes at a second hand or vintage shop like Episode, or via Marketplace, Designer-Vintage, or The Kilo Shop. Another option is to organize a clothing swap with friends!
- 80% of our stuff we use no more than once a month. It is, therefore, better to borrow or rent these items instead of buying them. Check out local initiatives through which you can borrow things from people in your neighborhood.
By Sarah Tekath