29 proposals for elections towards clean and green waterways

What would the animals of the Brussels waterways ask if they were to run for elections in 2024? That’s not a difficult question for us. Since Canal It Up is committed to clean and green waterways, our proposals are likely to align closely with what the animals would request. Therefore, with the help of artificial intelligence, we founded the Animal Party to communicate our joint proposals.

In the run-up to the elections, we drafted a memorandum that we sent to various political parties. The memorandum contains 29 proposals to transform the Brussels waterways into healthy and clean watercourses full of biodiversity. Given the complexity of the pollution issues, the proposals address themes such as waste, packaging, advertising, smoking, biodiversity, legislation, and rainwater management.

The images of the animals running for election have been generated using artificial intelligence, and we will publish them weekly one by one on our social media channels leading up to the elections on June 9th.


1) Install plinths at the bottom of the quay railings along the canal to prevent a large amount of waste from entering the water and needing to be fished out. The majority of the waste in the canal is blown in by the wind. More information here.

2) Install a mobile waste barrier or bubble screen in the canal at the level of the Molenbeek lock to completely intercept all floating waste at that location before it reaches the sea. More information here.

3) Collaborate with Flanders and Wallonia on the Belgian implementation of a deposit scheme for cans and plastic bottles, these bottles and cans account for 40% of litter volume. Avoid the digital deposit system advocated by the industry, as it would maintain the status quo and exclude a significant portion of people.

4) Ensure that the entire deposit system, especially the machines for collecting cans and plastic bottles, are capable of accepting (glass) reusable beverage containers as well. In countries where machines lack this capability, it serves as a counterargument by supermarkets against transitioning to reusable beverage containers.

5) Prohibit advertising in public spaces for beverages in disposable packaging, as well as advertising for water in both disposable and reusable packaging.

6) Mandate supermarkets to offer beverages in reusable containers for all products currently in disposable packaging. Additionally, prohibit the sale of vegetables and fruits in plastic packaging (as seen in France).

7) Mandate supermarkets and producers to annually publish and reduce their plastic production, redesign their packaging to make them reusable or plastic-free, and sell products without packaging as seen in organic stores.

8) Make it impossible for supermarkets like Colruyt to bundle various units of the same product by wrapping them with additional plastic films. These products are delivered to the supermarket by suppliers without plastic film.

9) Require cinemas to offer beverages only in reusable (glass) containers. This measure can significantly reduce waste in these enclosed environments. This practice is already implemented in the Netherlands.

10) Launch campaigns with the message that not only the volume of our white trash bags needs to decrease, but also that of the blue bag (PMD – Plastic, Metal, and Drink cartons).

11) Take the initial steps to gradually transition from the system of trash bags on the sidewalk to underground waste containers. Trash bags on the sidewalk are a significant source of litter, including in the canal.

12) Begin the gradual phase-out of single-use to-go packaging such as coffee cups and cups for smoothies and soups. Many of these cups may appear to be made of cardboard but are not recyclable and end up in the environment.

13) Transform the new Beco park into Brussels’ first smoke-free park. In addition to the well-known health benefits, reducing incentives to smoke, and making it more child-friendly, this measure prevents cigarette butts from ending up in the canal through the park. The rainwater drains are directly connected to the canal, providing a direct route for cigarette butts to enter the water. One cigarette butt can pollute up to 500 liters of water.

14) Prohibit smoking at public transport stops, on café and restaurant terraces, in parks, and at building entrances, thereby reducing the influx of cigarette butts into the sewer system and waterways.


15) Install small islands with water plants at various locations in the canal where they are visible to pedestrians, including in the city center.

16) Install floating platforms in the canal for water birds, ensuring that people do not have access to them. Presently, birds cannot rest on the quays due to the presence of people. A floating platform already represents a significant expansion of their habitat.

17) Place walkways at various locations along the canal so that newborn water birds can step out of the water.

Water quality

18) Invest the necessary money to meet the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive by 2027. Today, Brussels is not planning on meeting the requirement by 2027.

19) Open up the Senne River at multiple locations in the city and give water a more prominent and visible place. This can be achieved with floodable banks, unlike, for example, Max Sur Senne, where water still flows into the tunnel during rainy weather instead of into the newly dug channel.

20) Utilize the redevelopment of Maximilian Park (Max sur Senne) to redirect rainwater from adjacent streets and roofs to the park, where it can be infiltrated into buffer zones in the ground and slowed down to prevent sewer overflows and floods. This is not currently part of the plans and represents a significant missed opportunity.

21) Modify 10 parks in Brussels to include buffer zones where rainwater can infiltrate into the ground and be slowed down to prevent sewer overflows and floods.

22) Create an iconic rainwater square in a well-known Brussels square as an inspiring example of how we should manage rainwater. This prevents other streets and squares from being redesigned, where rainwater is continuously connected directly to the sewerage system, as we see today at Schuman Square, Koningsplein, and many other squares.

23) Transform the entire sewerage system in Brussels into a dynamic system, utilizing the internal storage capacity of the sewerage system itself to prevent sewer overflows and floods. For example, the sewerage system of Paris is entirely dynamic.

24) Decouple 3.000.000 m2 of Brussels rooftops from the sewerage system by 2030, both public and private. The City of Brussels has already set a goal to decouple 250.000 m2.

25) Aim for the objective of ZERO sewer overflows by 2030. Currently, no one in Brussels is projecting such an objective, while other cities like Paris will already achieve the ZERO objective in 2024.

26) Merge Hydria and Vivaqua to enable a more unified policy for sewers, storm basins, and sewage treatment plants.

27) Amend the statutes of Hydria and Vivaqua so that they can also invest in above-ground solutions for water buffering, such as in parks, streets, and squares.

Quality of life

28) Transform the canal into a vibrant and accessible place by lowering the quays at various locations and reducing traffic along the canal in multiple areas.

29) Establish a Brussels Water Hub at the building located at Havenlaan 1, 1000 Brussels. The building is situated on the canal quay in the new Beco Park with access to the water. Activities such as kayaking and others by Canal It Up can be organized from there, and the Waterbus docks at the building five times a day. Coordination Senne, the Waterbus, Canal It Up, and other water-related organizations can be housed there. Alternatively, a combination of water-related organizations and those with social impact could be accommodated. Additionally, include an (interactive) exhibition on water in the city and its connection to nature, plastic pollution, microplastics, and biodiversity in and around waterways. These themes are becoming increasingly important and critical every day, and a Brussels Water Hub can be a significant element on the path to a better future.