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Innovative vacuum cleaner removes plastic from nature reserve in the port of Antwerp

‘Nul-o-Plastic’ combats historical pollution at Galgeschoor

From the September 19th, World Clean-up Day, the ‘Nul-o-Plastic’, designed by Envisan (Jan De Nul Group), will get rid of the historical pollution in the Galgeschoor nature reserve in the port of Antwerp.  This vacuum cleaner is the winning design of the Galgeschoor Plastic Challenge and is now ready to remove millions of plastic pellets and other pastics in this nature reserve.

In 2019, Port of Antwerp launched a competition for new clean-up techniques for the plastic pellets that had accumulated in Galgeschoor nature reserve. Despite annual clean-up campaigns, millions of these small plastic particles still remain that cannot be cleaned manually. This is the result of historical pollution caused by plastic waste from cities and municipalities along the river Scheldt and industrial plastic pellets that were lost in the port. Year after year they are transported along the 350 km long Scheldt to ultimately end up in the mudflats and salt marshes.

The Galgeschoor Plastic Challenge challenged participants to come up with a feasible solution in terms of technical, budgetary, logistics and environmental aspects. The aim was to find a solution to clean up a difficult-to-access tidal area with unique vegetation and endangered bird species with minimal impact on flora and fauna. A jury of innovation and environmental experts selected the Envisan plastic waste vacuum cleaner (Jan De Nul Group) from more than 50 entries. Envisan received a cheque for EUR 10,000 and continued to develop the design in conjunction with Port of Antwerp. As from today, the Nul-o-Plastic, a big, manoeuvrable vacuum cleaner on rubber caterpillar tracks, will efficiently vacuum the plastic pellets.

An Smet, Director of Envisan: “Innovation is our driving force and one of the pillars of our strategy to find circular solutions for a better planet. Our focus is on constantly reducing our ecological footprint.  Not only at our sites and offices, but also on project level. Therefore, we are delighted that the Nul-o-Plastic will effectively be used now. For the first time, our innovative Nul-o-Plastic will also be able to remove all small plastic particles from this nature reserve. We look forward to deploying the Nul-o-Plastic in other port areas as well.”

Port Clean-up: https://www.sustainableportofantwerp.com/en/

Together with other stakeholders, Port of Antwerp is working on preventative solutions, clean-up campaigns and innovations to make our living environment plastic-free. One of these initiatives is the annual clean-up campaign in the Galgeschoor nature reserve, with the support of Natuurpunt and Mooimakers. Hundreds of volunteers – port employees, people living in the neighbourhood and members of nature organisations and industry – join forces. This action creates awareness about the problem of litter and plastic pollution. The coronavirus crisis turned the 2020 edition into a digital clean-up campaign. This is why on 24 August, Port of Antwerp launched a weekly challenge which you could accept on your own, with your bubble or in your company in a safe and fun way. The Nul-O-Plastic is the perfect addition to these clean-up actions: this unique installation will also remove plastics that we cannot remove by hand.

Port alderman Annick De Ridder: “Plastics have a place in the port, but that place is not in the Scheldt, the docks or nature. With this initiative, we as a port want to assume our social responsibility and continue to focus on a sustainable port and environment. This innovation by Jan De Nul is a great example of how co-operation and partnerships result in solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. We are proud to be a pioneer in this again.”