Plastic Whale is the first professional plastic fishing company in the world and they turn the collected plastics into stunning furniture. They aim to “create economic value from plastic waste, involving as many people as possible”. In the last year, they’ve launched a furniture range, have a fleet of ten design boats made from Amsterdam Canal Plastic, and have reached over 10,000 people with their unique ‘plastic fishing’ tours in Amsterdam’s canals. They’ve been a hit with Airbnb Experiences too! Marius Smit, founder and ‘Captain’ shared his vision with us.
What’s unique about Plastic Whale?
“We aim to go out of business! – overfishing (of plastics) is a positive phenomenon for us!”
Plastic Whale is also unique in the fact that we control the entire process: we collect the plastic from the Amsterdam Canals and the Rotterdam Harbour with the involvement of thousands of people and hundreds of companies each year. Then the plastic bottles are processed into raw material and thereafter into foam plates and felt. These materials we use to create our boats and now our furniture too. Next to collecting and creating, we educate too while doing all this. We show that plastic and other garbage doesn’t belong in nature and that plastic is valuable because you can use it as raw material for other products.
Marius, what inspired you to start Plastic Whale?
When I was travelling the world for a year I visited the most beautiful places you can imagine. But everywhere we went we saw plastic waste. During my travels, I decided that I wanted to do something against this problem called plastic soup. I wanted to create a movement of civilians, companies and government institutions who work together towards a concrete, positive outcome and the plastic soup. Therefore I created a challenge to build a boat from plastic waste and I invited everyone to help me.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Designing, producing and releasing a complete furniture line in 6 months, while this process normally takes 2 years at least. Furniture made from Amsterdam Canal Plastic, that was collected by thousands of people together with us! To date, we have organized plastic fishing trips for more than 300 companies, 50 school classes and many tourists. The number of people who participated in an event range from 8 to 350. We’ve reached well over 10,000 people.
What is the strangest thing you have fished out of the city’s canals?
We have fished out many odd objects, but one special object that we remember was a bag full of money. Unfortunately, it turned out to be false money.
What’re your plans for Plastic Whale over the next 6 months or so?
In the next months, the furniture will be placed at our Launching Partner offices. We have fourteen launching partners so far but are looking for six more. We’re also working hard on our portfolio, with a focus on other office furniture products and also products for the B2C market. The furniture now allows us to also go abroad and work on impact there. We have set the first partnership with India, with a company called SweepSmart. We have also been to Bali with WWF, Fox Travels and 13 more companies to map the problem there and join forces. And of course, we would like to make records again: fish with even more people than last year and hope to fish for even more plastic!
You have expanded to Rotterdam – any future plans to grow any further?
Certainly. 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. 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. Stay tuned, because we will announce more about our international plans soon!
How do you finance your work?
A plastic whale fishing trip for tourists costs €25 per person. As a company we are financially self-sustaining; we are not dependent on any subsidies. We have four main sources of income: company sponsorships, company plastic fishing events, exploitation of the boats (tourists and private boat rentals) and giving a lot of presentations about the way we created a fast-growing social enterprise from scratch.
How can a reader learn more about ocean plastics?
We cover a lot of news items on our Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus and Instagram accounts. Also, The Ocean Clean Up does wonderful work and create great content about this. The Plastic Soup Foundation gives a really nice overview of information regarding this subject as well.
How can people get involved with Plastic Whale?
People can help by making sure they buy as little plastic as possible and recycling as much plastic as possible. If you see plastic in nature, pick it up! And, you are more than welcome to come plastic fishing with us! You can book your trip on Airbnb.
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