Initially, it organised (recycled) boat trips on the Amsterdam canals for tourists who wanted to discover the city in a different way.
Once on board, the tourists are invited to play an active role in Plastic Whale's project: using the fishing nets provided to them, they will spend the 2-hour boat trip collecting and "fishing up" all the rubbish that has no place in the canals.
Their catch, made up of various types of usually plastic and steel waste, is then taken to centres to be sorted and recycled.
And this is where the 2nd phase of the concept developed by Plastic Whale’ founder, Marius Smit, begins. In 2012, he created his company with the aim of generating "economic value" from the plastic collected.
Converting waste into a resource
A part of the catch will be used to make other waste collection boats. To date, 13 boats made of recycled plastic are sailing on the Amsterdam and Rotterdam canals.
The fished-up plastic bottles will be given a second life as they are turned into high-quality designer furniture.
Plastic furniture created according to circular production and design principles
To achieve this, Plastic Whale has teamed up with Vepa, one of the largest office furniture manufacturers in the Netherlands: at the moment, their collection consists of a meeting table, a chair, lamps and acoustic wall panels. Making a meeting table, for example, takes around 1,000 0.5-litre PET bottles weighing an average of 25 grams each. The table will ultimately be made from layers of recycled PET felt, recycled PET foam and FSC birch wood.
The cast iron frames of the various pieces of furniture are made using steel waste from Vepa's own factory.
And to complete the loop, once they reach the end of their life, these objects will be recovered and then dismantled by Vepa and the various parts will be re-used or recycled.
In 2019, 40,500 PET bottles were recovered from the water by 18,000 plastic "fishermen".