Schone Rivieren or Clean Rivers, is a special project run by IVN, Stichting De Noordzee (the North Sea Foundation) and the Plastic Soup Foundation. Our shared goal is to stop the flow of plastic in rivers at its source. To do this, we need to understand the quantity, composition, and origins of said plastic. Only then, we can approach the polluters and encourage them to take responsibility.
The Netherlands is a delta with large rivers that traverse it which flow into the sea. But oddly enough, we do not have a national policy to prevent the flow of waste in rivers and that’s something we have to change. That’s because plastic waste found in rivers ends up in the sea, and it is therefore an important contributor to the plastic soup. Also, animals get caught in the plastic or mistake it for food and eat it, which ultimately leads to deaths caused by starvation while their stomachs are full of plastic. With campagins targeted at the public, industry, and policy-makers to clean up riverbanks, we want to find solutions to the plastic problem.
Do you want to know what we have done to date?
We need knowledge to solve the problem. That’s why we have set up a research programme that uses ‘citizen science’: it involves volunteers who collect litter from riverbanks. After its collection, the litter is counted and divided into categories. This process broadens the reach of scientific research greatly and generates information that helps us find solutions. The citizen science programme started in 2017 and will last five years. At the moment, there are already a couple hundred volunteers trained to assess the waste collected. Each of these volunteers monitors a section of the banks along the Meuse and Waal rivers. In 2020, we will bump up the number of monitored revers.
The first results show that 84% of the waste found in the Meuse and Waal rivers consists of plastic. The largest part of this is made up of small pieces of plastic whose source is difficult to determine. Beverage packaging, candy wrappers, and plastic food containers (such as French fry containers), score very high, and it also appears that waste enters the rivers from sewage overflow.