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TILBURG CENTAURUS POND HEAVILY POLLUTED WITH MICROPLASTICS
6 March 2020
The Plastic Soup Foundation, which for some time now has been investigating pollution with plastic granules – the so-called ‘nurdles’ – and which has recently submitted an enforcement request to the Rotterdam environmental service DCMR, was informed by group of students about an enormous amount of microplastics in the Centaurus pond in Tilburg.
team ‘Plastic Catcher’, consisting of Koen Reerink, Isabella Anglin, Hanne van
Gompel and Luc Mosmuller, made this remarkable discovery on 6 February 2020
during field research as part of their study at TU Eindhoven. Harmen Spek of
Plastic Soup Foundation had commissioned them to conduct research into the
leakage of plastic to the environment from sewer overflows, and to come up with
Straight from the factory
A sample of
the material from the pond shows that it is mainly so-called ‘grinding
material’ (shredded plastic waste). In addition, ‘virgin nurdles’ (plastic
granules directly from the factory) and recycled nurdles were found. Larger
pieces of plastic were also found that can be traced back to the so-called
plastic conversion industry: companies that make all kinds of plastic products
from the basic grains. The material remaining after production usually goes
back to the recycling industry for processing.
visiting the site, the Centaurus Pond looks quite normally. It is only when we
take a close look at what appears to be organic floating material that we see
that they are microplastics everywhere. Along the bank, where a sewer overflow
flows into the pond, the concentration is really enormous; a colourful thick
mass of small plastic particles mixed with some organic material has
accumulated along this waterfront. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rainfall and
the high water level of the last few weeks, the plastic can also be found in
the overgrown sides of the pond and the grass next to it.
Centaurus pond serves as a so-called ‘retention pond’ to temporarily collect
large quantities of rainwater. This rainwater is supplied via a sewage network
from the industrial area Loven 3 and comes directly from the companies located
there. Eventually, the excess water in the pond is pumped via a small pumping
station to the Wilhelmina canal.
its composition, the plastic leakage found can be clearly traced back to three
or four plastic processing or recycling companies located on the Loven 3
industrial estate. The municipality is investigating which company can
ultimately be held responsible for this.
production, more recycling, more leakage
plastic production will continue to grow exponentially in the coming years and
more and more countries are saying no to the international trade in waste plastic,
more and more plastic waste will have to be processed within our own borders.
That is why
the recycling sector in the Netherlands sees great opportunities for growth.
But the downside is that the amount of plastic waste that leaks into the
environment will also increase. Everywhere where plastic is produced,
processed, used and recycled again, leakage occurs. Both during transport and
transshipment, but also simply due to carelessness and negligence on the part
Soup Foundation is shocked by the findings in the Centaurus Pond. We were
already very worried about the leakage of plastic by the plastic producing
industry, but now the plastic recycling industry is added. PSF is of the
opinion that there must be strict rules to reduce this risk to zero!
findings at the Centaurus pond were so worrying that the student team contacted
Mariëlle van Dalen of the municipality of Tilburg. Van Dalen was already
involved at an earlier stage in the overflow research of the students. After
this report, the Tilburg municipality acted quickly by sending enforcers to
investigate the drainage wells.
The pond was cleaned by a company on behalf of the municipality in week 8, but unfortunately the consequences of this microplastic leakage will never be lost again. It took a number of full trailers to remove the worst pollution, but the spots between the water plants and the grass will probably never be clean again. Once (micro)plastics end up in the environment they are very difficult to remove. The Centaurus pond in Tilburg is unfortunately an example of this…