Dutch-based Plastic Whale has built six boats from plastic recovered from Amsterdam's canals.
An Amsterdam-based social enterprise group called Plastic Whale has entered the boat building business.
Instead of using traditional Dutch boat-building techniques, however, Plastic Whale has made its fleet of six boats from plastic that’s been “fished” from Amsterdam’s famed canals.
According to Bas Stok, ‘Chief Mate’ of Plastic Whale, the boat business is just one part of the company’s efforts to build awareness about the levels of plastic pollution found in Amsterdam’s canals and other bodies of water around the globe.
Stok, who is responsible for the social enterprise company’s commercial activities and came from a role as a corporate sustainability manager with Dutch beer brand Heineken, says the group’s ultimate goal is to see cleaner waters worldwide. Their goal, ironically, is to have fun whilst ultimately aiming to put themselves out of business by keeping the world’s waterways plastic free.
“We started the organisation about five years ago with the idea of building a boat out of PET bottles,” Stok explained.
“After our first post on Facebook, about 1,250 people joined us to collect the plastic.”
It didn’t take long for the company to make a bigger splash, however. Once they had enough of the plastic pollution collected, they separated out the plastic that contained polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that’s present in food and drink containers and other commercial products, and they built a boat.
Stok said the boat got them noticed by local businesses, and the groundswell has been building ever since.
“With the boat, companies started to call us and ask if they could come along as well and do some plastic fishing. We then built a second boat and companies asked if they could become a sponsor,” he said.
According to Stok, the companies who sponsored them appreciated both Plastic Whale’s aims and its effectiveness at removing plastic litter from the city’s ancient waterways.
“They told us: ‘The proof is in the boats: more boats, cleaner canals,'” he said.
Most recently, Plastic Whale was sponsored by Interface — a major commercial carpet manufacturer — to build the sixth boat in their fleet.
Stok said the sponsorship with Interface was one that made sense due to the manufacturer’s own successful sustainability and ocean conservation campaigns, including one that sees fishermen recovering fishing nets from coastal waters where they could be harmful to wildlife.
The boat the two companies partnered on is a new design, according to Stok, at 5.5m in length and operated under electric power, half of which comes from solar technology.
“The reason that we build small boats is because you can get them into the narrow places in the canals,” the executive said, though he didn’t rule out building larger, ocean-going vessels. And Stok said the company may expand to the UK.
“We started in Amsterdam and we want to expand internationally. We are looking at England at the moment.”
The next step in the company’s growth? A bigger boat. “The next one will be 8.5m,” Stok said.
Plastic is an enormous problem in oceans, rivers and canals throughout the world. To date, the company has collected more than 35,000 plastic bottles and hundreds of bags worth of other plastic debris in Amsterdam alone.
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