Plastic-free even after May

Friday 25 05 2018

This month the port community is taking part in an awareness-raising campaign entitled "Plastic-free May" with the aim of reducing superfluous use of plastic in our society. For the port this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the balance between Antwerp as the main polymer hub in Europe and our active participation in the Zero Pellet Loss project.

"Getting rid of plastics completely from our society is utopian and indeed is not even ecological," says professor Kim Ragaert, a materials expert at the University of Ghent. "Studies have shown that if we were to substitute alternative materials for all the plastic components and finished products, the environmental cost would quadruple."

The plastics industry plays a prominent role in the port of Antwerp. Antwerp is the leading European port for polymers (the raw materials for plastics), in the form of production, handling and distribution of plastic pellets. Every year millions of tonnes of pellets find their way from Antwerp to other hubs in Europe.

Prevention and clean-up actions in Antwerp

Watch this video and find out how we remove pellets from the environment in the port area. 



Preventing these plastic pellets from getting lost and ending up in the water or other places around the port is a top priority for the port of Antwerp.

There are five "hot spots" within the port area that are monitored on a weekly basis, and the Port Authority carries out regular clean-up operations. The "port tornados" remove larger items of litter (timber, plastic bottles, lengths of rope etc.) while sweeper trucks and suction units clean up the plastic pellets. In the course of this "plastic-free month" some 20 cubic metres of litter and 1 tonne of plastic pellets have been removed from the water in the docks.

Various possibilities for re-introducing the resulting plastic materials into the circular economy are currently being studied.

Zero Pellet Loss

But the ambition is even higher, namely to reduce pellet loss to zero. Last year the Antwerp port community and the transport sector signed up for Operation Clean Sweep, an international programme set up by PlasticsEurope to prevent unwanted plastic materials from getting into the sea water. Antwerp is the first port in Europe to subscribe to this commitment.

As part of Operation Clean Sweep, Antwerp Port Authority together with essenscia (representing the chemical industry), Alfaport Voka, port industry and PlasticsEurope launched the Zero Pellet Loss project which will lead to practical initiatives in the course of this year and next year.

More info on waste management in the port area