Published: April 29, 2016


Images source:

Vic Bishop

The inspiring and innovative crew of a small company, Plastic Whale, in The Netherlands, is making cleaning up plastics its daily mission and confronting the massive global problem of plastic pollution. This Dutch company organizes Amsterdam sight-seeing and plastic fishing tours and corporate events via the city’s extensive canal system, fishing out plastic and trash that has made its way into the canal waters and would eventually end up in the oceans.


 Plastic fishing, started by company Plastic Whale, is an innovative approach to cleaning up the waterways of Amsterdam.


Boat riders collect bags full of plastic, which Plastic Whale regards as a valuable raw material.

Their novel approach to decreasing water pollution doesn’t stop there. The company recycles as much of the debris as it possibly can, except the plastic, which it regards as a valuable and useful raw material. Once enough plastic is collected by sight-seeing “fishermen,” Plastic Whale processes the plastic by shredding it, washing it, and transforming it into small plastic granules. These granules are used to create foam plates, a light and buoyant material, perfect for constructing more Plastic Whale boats. The new boats are then used for more plastic fishing tours, thus removing even more plastic out of the water.


Plastic collected on plastic fishing tours is transformed into buoyant foam plates used to construct new Plastic Whale boats.


As the fleet of Plastic Whale boats grows, the company is able to remove more plastic and debris out of waterways.

 Plastic Whale repurposes bottle caps to create mosaics on boat floors. It also manufactures unique skateboards called WasteBoards.


Plastic Whale repurposes bottle caps to create mosaics on boat floors.


WasteBoards created out of bottle caps.

Since its start in 2010, the company has removed more than 50,000 plastic bottles and over 10,000 kilograms of other waste out of the canals that intertwine Amsterdam, according to founder Marius Smit. EcoWatch recently published an interview in which Smit shared what he thinks is the most important message to leave with boat riders:

“Obviously we tell them about the problem of plastic soup. But another important issue we tell them is that plastic should not be regarded as valueless waste, but as valuable raw material. We do this by creating beautiful design boats and unique skateboards; products that amaze and appeal to people. The root of the problem, as we see it, is that people regard plastic as a disposable. We try to change people’s perceptions.”


Plastic Whale has removed more than 50,000 plastic bottles from the waterways in Amsterdam.

In the interview, Smit shared his motivations for starting Plastic Whale:

“Twelve years ago I was traveling the world for a year with my girlfriend. We visited beautiful and remote places. And everywhere we came, we saw plastic waste. One day we were staying on a pristine little beach on the North side of Borneo, near Kota Kinabalu. The weather was bad with a lot of on-land wind. When we arrived at the beach it was flooded with plastic debris. I was in shock, because North of Borneo there is nothing but sea for hundreds of miles. That’s when I was first introduced to the plastic soup phenomenon. And I decided that I wanted to do something about it.

Our ultimate goal is to make the world’s waters plastic-free. We won’t claim that we will just achieve that by ourselves, because the problem is simply to huge and complex. But we do want to make a positive contribution towards the solution.

When I encountered the problem of plastic soup I realized that I had to do something about it. Now I have managed to create a company and a living for my colleagues and myself whilst we add something positive to the world.”

The statistics on plastic pollution are staggering:

  • Over the last 50 years, we’ve increased the amount of plastic waste 12 fold.
  • In the US alone, about 30+ million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the solid waste system, including various plastic containers, bags and other types of packaging, with only about 10% being recycled.
  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times.
  • It is estimated that 8 million tons of plastic trash makes its way into the world’s waterways each year.
  • Typically plastics are made by using non-renewable resources, and it takes most plastics 500 to 1000 years to degrade.

Marius Smit, his 20 employees, numerous partners and eager boat riders have taken this problem to heart. Smit has created a social enterprise that is part of the solution to plastic pollution, making a positive contribution on a daily basis. The company’s mission is to grow beyond Amsterdam, and expand into other European cities, perhaps even worldwide. The video below will give you a glimpse at what plastic fishing looks like: