GEAR

Am­s­ter­dam-based Plas­tic Whale fishes trash out of the wa­ter and turns it into boats, fur­ni­ture and more.

Yachting - - DEPARTMENTS - by kim kavin

Plas­tic Whale started by re­mov­ing plas­tic from Dutch canals, and is now re­cy­cling and build­ing high-end fur­ni­ture from it.

The table, chairs and lights in the pho­to­graph above all used to be plas­tic garbage float­ing in Am­s­ter­dam canals. Vol­un­teers with Plas­tic Whale re­cy­cled it after fish­ing it out of the wa­ter — while cruis­ing aboard boats made from re­cy­cled plas­tic that once was canal trash too. Talk about an evo­lu­tion of con­struc­tion in the Nether­lands, one of Eu­rope’s most cel­e­brated boat­build­ing na­tions. ¶ Plas­tic Whale started in 2011 and now in­cludes 10 re­cy­cled plas­tic boats. The more plas­tic the com­pany col­lects, the more boats that can be built to col­lect even more trash. Plas­tic Whale owner Mar­ius Smit says the com­pany col­lects 25,000 plas­tic bot­tles a year, along with tons of other plas­tic waste. Any­body can pay about $30 for one of eight spa­ces on a boat and then head out into the canals for two hours of “plas­tic fish­ing”

with mesh nets. Schools are book­ing trips, as are cor­po­rate or­ga­niz­ers. As of this past Septem­ber, more than 15,500 peo­ple had re­port­edly vol­un­teered to don gloves and help out while see­ing the his­toric canal sights. ¶ “Plas­tic fish­ing has a pos­i­tive im­pact on kids. They love it,” Smit told The Guardian ear­lier this year. “As soon as they take the plas­tic out of the wa­ter, they see it doesn’t be­long there. When we tell them that we make boats out of it, they un­der­stand it should be seen as a raw ma­te­rial, not as waste.” ¶ The suc­cess that Plas­tic Whale has achieved also led to the more re­cent cre­ation of Plas­tic Whale Cir­cu­lar Fur­ni­ture, which re­cy­cles the ma­te­ri­als in ad­di­tional ways. Plas­tic Whale part­nered with Dutch fur­ni­ture maker Vepa to com­bine re­cy­cled fab­rics and steel with re­cy­cled PET bot­tles (think plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles) and more to cre­ate ta­bles, chairs and lamps. Acous­tic pan­els are avail­able too, in­clud­ing ones back­lit with col­or­ful LEDs for an artis­tic ef­fect. And each piece of fur­ni­ture is mod­u­lar so that, at the end of its life cy­cle, it can be bro­ken down again and re­cy­cled for yet an­other use, what­ever that might turn out to be in the fu­ture. ¶ For each piece of fur­ni­ture that is sold, 10 per­cent of pro­ceeds go to the Plas­tic Whale Foun­da­tion, which is work­ing to spread re­cy­cling busi­ness mod­els world­wide. In Ban­ga­lore, In­dia, a waste-man­age­ment en­ter­prise is col­lect­ing and re­cy­cling plas­tic — cre­at­ing lo­cal jobs while keep­ing the plas­tic out of land­fills, so it can’t make its way into the wa­ter in the first place. ¶ “Our am­bi­tion is to cre­ate eco­nomic value from plas­tic waste in var­i­ous parts of the world, es­pe­cially in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries where the prob­lem of plas­tic waste is worst,” Smit says. “By cre­at­ing value from the waste, we give an eco­nomic im­pulse to the lo­cal com­mu­nity and at­tack the prob­lem of plas­tic waste at the same time.”

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