An Innovative Foundation Takes on Waste Before it Enters the Oceans

When plastic litter is left on the streets, it inevitably ends up in the oceans, adding to the enormous plastic pollution crisis that we see today. Many media outlets have captured the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on marine life, from birds starving to death because a plastic bottle cap is stuck on their beak or they regurgitate plastic to their young, to dead whales washing ashore because their stomachs are filled with plastic. This is not isolated in one region of the world, and is impacting marine life everywhere plastic exists. The Recycled Island Foundation, based in the Netherlands, recognizes this crisis and is determined to stop the plastic before they end up in the oceans.

Maaike De Waele works as a Project Coordinator for Recycled Park, Recycled Island Foundation’s latest project that aims to retrieve plastic waste from rivers before it reaches the oceans and seas. The collected plastics are then recycled to give new value to the river because they will be used to construct floating platforms for a new green environment: a floating park.

Recycled Park developed passive Litter Traps (waste-collecting contraptions) which retrieve plastics from rivers before they enter the ocean. These Litter Traps are also made from recycled plastics in efforts to repurpose the waste that is collected from the waters. In their role, Maaike is responsible for providing education to the public through presentations in schools and municipalities, strategizing communication efforts to increase knowledge about plastic pollution, and for monitoring the Litter Traps. Through this project Maaike and their colleagues retrieve plastics before they are entering the ocean. For example, in Brussels the Litter Trap collects approximately 1-2 cubic meters of trash per week.

The Recycled Park project started in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, but is quickly expanding internationally and the team has recently implemented a third Litter Trap in Indonesia. Recycled Park, which opened in July 2018, has been beneficial for the city of Rotterdam in tackling the issue of plastic pollution in the waters through its Litter Trap, while the floating parks are there mostly to create more green spaces in the city, improve the water ecology, and to create awareness about the plastic issue.

Floating park in Rotterdam

Recycled Park is a practical example of a circular economy, where plastic products that are once used and discarded end up getting collected, and upcycled to create Litter Traps and floating parks. In 2019, the Recycled Island Foundation aims to start new projects on a global scale in order to collect as much plastic as possible before they are entering the oceans. They will evaluate each location for their local recycling capabilities, determine what products can be created that are locally needed, and increase their efforts to make more people aware of the plastic pollution issue and the steps individuals can take to address this.

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