November 28, 2019

Plastic Spotter launched

Help us spot and clean up the plastic in the canals of Leiden! Leiden University is calling on the good folk of Leiden to help our researchers study the plastic in the city’s canals. And if you’d like our canals to be plastic-free, why not donate for a fleet of canoes to clean them up?

Official launch at Leiden market

Yvonne van Delft, alderman at the Municipality of Leiden and Martijn Ridderbos, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board of Leiden University, fished a long string of plastic out of the Nieuwe Rijn canal in the centre of Leiden on 27 November 2019. This was to celebrate the launch of Plastic Spotter, a project in which the citizens of Leiden are working with researchers to gain a clear picture of how much plastic waste is floating in the canals of Leiden. The many cups, bottles, crisp packets and bags that Van Delft and Ridderbos pulled out of the water while being observed by shoppers, market traders, students and employees of the Municipality of Leiden and Leiden University made the plastic problem all too visible.

Plastic soup begins in canals

The concentration of plastic in de Leiden canals demonstrates how the plastic soup that has taken over our seas starts right here in Leiden too. Plastic that's deposited anywhere in our 28 kilometres of canals will find its way eventually to sea.

Become a plastic spotter

How much plastic is floating in the canals and waters of Leiden and where exactly? Citizens and researchers now have the opportunity to study this together. The free CrowdWater app makes recording the amounts of plastics in your part of town quick and easy. Just take a photo and enter how much plastic you observe or, conversely, do not observe! Entries of clean & pristine locations are welcome too. We will use all data that is collected for research into how plastic is transported through our waterways. Download the app from www.plasticspotter.nl.

Canoes to fish plastic out of the canals

We aren’t just going to sit back and watch the plastic as it flows to the sea. We also want to clean up the mess, but to do so, we need canoes. Volunteers will use these boats to free the Leiden canals of floating litter. Support the clean-up campaign with a donation at www.steunleiden.nl. Together we can make our canals plastic-free!

Spot and support

Auke-Florian Hiemstra, who conducts research into plastics in coots’ nests at the Institute of Environmental Sciences, is one of the coordinators of the project. He calls on everyone to join in and contribute: ‘We keep finding out more about the effects of plastic on nature, and tackling the problem at the source will save a lot of heartache further on down the chain. How much plastic is floating here in Leiden? Where does it come from? And how does it find its way to the sea? As Plastic Spotters, we and the citizens of Leiden are going to be first to gain a clear picture of this. But it doesn’t stop there: before it reaches the sea, we want to fish as much plastic as possible out of the canals. Your donation will help us launch our fleet of canoes!’

Yvonne van Delft, alderman at the Municipality of Leiden, and Martijn Ridderbos, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board of Leiden University, fished a long string of plastic out of the Nieuwe Rijn canal, to launch the Plastic Spotter project. Eelkje Colmjon

Research with citizens of Leiden

Leiden University had its 444 year anniversary in 2019, and citizen science projects are one way in which we are celebrating this milestone. Citizen science is research that academics and the public carry out together in order to gain new knowledge. The Plastic Spotter campaign is the result of a call for research questions in March 2019. It soon became clear that plastic is a hot topic for the residents of Leiden, which is how the researchers came up with the Plastic Spotter project. The app is not just for use in Leiden: people throughout the country can use it to spot plastic in the water.