Galgeschoor plastic challenge

Every year, Port of Antwerp organises a clean-up campaign for the Galgeschoor-mudflat nature reserve. This year, more than 400 volunteers collected no less than 8 tons of waste. Unfortunately, there are still millions of small plastic particles that cannot be cleaned by hand.



These small plastics are transported year after year by the 350 km long Scheldt that crosses many cities and eventually washes up by the tides. This nature reserve also has to contend with industrial plastic pellets (polymers as raw material for many products) that have been lost over the years and have accumulated in this mud and salt marshes area.


In order to tackle this at the source, Port of Antwerp, together with the entire plastics sector, has put its shoulders to the 'Operation Clean Sweep ©' charter in which we strive for 'Zero Pellet Loss'.


But what about these small plastics that are now entangled in this nature reserve?


Jan De Nul is the winner of the Port of Antwerp “Plastic Challenge”


Port of Antwerp challenged you to come up with a feasible solution in the technical, budgetary, logistics and environmental fields. On 19 December, Port of Antwerp awarded the prize of 10,000 euros to the company Envisan (Jan De Nul Group). They will build a kind of vacuum cleaner that removes plastic pellets from the port's natural environment.


Port of Antwerp is serious about the pollution of plastics.” says Chief Digital, Information & Innovation Officer Erwin Verstraelen



Description area


The Galgeschoor is an area of over 100 hectares and offers a home for many unique vegetations and bird species. It is therefore very important that the nature reserve is not disturbed by this challenge. In this mud flats and salt marshes area, 3 different vegetation zones are indicated that are applicable for this challenge.


Paved dike


  • Hardened and crushed stone substrate with loose remnants of humus layer
  • Very high concentration of plastics free on paved surfaces
  • Jump and storm tide washing-up


Humus layer above reed collar


  • Litter layer consisting of loose and stacked dead vegetations
  • Medium to high concentration of plastics deep into the humus layer.
  • Ashore by high and spring tides


Green vegetation zone above reed belt


  • Fast-growing green plants such as thistles, nettles, etc.
  • Moderate concentration of plastics between plants and into the superficial humus layer
  • Ashore due to high tide


For this challenge, the Galgenschoor-mudflat is indicated as reference point. Such vegetation zones with plastic contamination can also occur elsewhere in other mudflats and salt marshes along the banks of the Scheldt!


Description plastics


The plastics to be removed float around the denominator of microplastics and literally fall through the meshes of the net.


Which plastics are we talking about?

  • Plastics that have been degraded to small particles of 5 mm and smaller.
  • Industrial plastic pellets intended as raw material for many products.
  • Plastics that mainly float but also float and sink.
  • Plastics that you can still see with the naked eye.


Do you want to see and feel these plastics? We will gladly send you a starter pack with a sample of plastics directly from the Galgeschoor. Send an email to


10 competition rules


  1. The solution should include no disturbance of the flora and fauna.
  2. The solid ground and vegetation remain untouched.
  3. 1 winner of the cash prize (€ 10,000).
  4. The Environmental Expert Team will have to make a positive assessment as to whether the environmental impact in the area will be disturbed too much.
  5. Technical Expert Team will have to positively assess the overall feasibility of the solution.
  6. The organisation always has the right not to hold anyone back.
  7. The organization is free to decide whether the won solution will be implemented effectively.
  8. The submitter is not entitled to any compensation for the creation of ideas and concepts.
  9. Intellectual property remains the property of the developer of the idea.
  10. All data submitted within the framework of the competition will be returned to the submitter and will no longer be in the possession of the organizer.