Plinths along the canal to stop the trash
The study carried out by the Port of Brussels regarding the waste in the canal already came to the conclusion that most of the waste in the canal ends up in the water due to the wind. There is rubbish to be found on the quays and it is being blown into the water. This is also what Canal It Up observes during the many hours we spend on and around the canal. It is easy to clean up the waste on the quay, but once in the water this becomes very difficult and there is a risk that it will end up in the sea. That is why we propose plinths as a trash barrier between the quay and the canal.
During two months we installed two test plinths at the bottom of the railing along the canal at Koolmijnenkaai. One plinth made of recycled plastic, made by the Brussels company Bel Albatros, and one plinth made of perforated steel. Both plinths were 12 cm high and were temporarily attached to the railing. Due to the large length of 1,75 m and the absence of an attachment in the middle, the plinths were very flexible in the middle.
Together with the plinths we hung a panel explaining the pilot project. After two months, the plinths were still present and not vandalized, the idea was respected by local residents and passers-by. The scale of the pilot project is too small to draw conclusions about its efficiency, but the solution speaks for itself, where there is already some kind of plinth today, you always see waste that has been retained by the plinth.
A beautiful example
In the newly constructed Beco park, the train tracks have been retained for heritage considerations. These rails serve extremely well as a plinth to stop waste and cigarette butts. We have already consulted with Brussels Environment to provide plinths throughout the park. Together with them we came to the conclusion that the entire park is equipped with train rails except for 100 m. Brussels Environment will investigate before the end of this year whether they can also equip the missing 100 m with plinths or train rails. In this way, no more waste would end up in the canal via this part of the quay.
Other existing plinths along the canal
Where should plinths be installed
We identified all places where plinths are needed along the canal in Brussels. In total we reach a length of 9,7 km. We only propose installing a plinth in places where railings are present. Not all railings are the same, so the plinths would vary in height, length and method of attachment, but the majority still consists of one type of railing (see number 6 below). The distance between the posts of the railing is also not always the same. Below are photos of the different locations we identified.
There is a lot of waste on the quays
Waste can be found along the railings along the entire length of the canal, from entire garbage bags to drinks containers and cigarette butts. Waste that is blown into the water by the wind or washed into the canal with the rain. And this will remain the case as long as we put waste on the sidewalk in Brussels in garbage bags, as long as there is no deposit on cans and plastic bottles and as long as single-use packaging makes up the majority of packaging. Below are some photos of what we observed after one bike ride along the canal.
Cost and proposal
The plinths in our pilot project were 12 cm high. But we propose to install plinths 23 cm high so that they reach the bottom horizontal bar of the most common model of railings. This provides more attachment points, will be more aesthetically coherent and retains even more waste than a 12 cm high plinth.
Our pilot project also included a plinth in recycled plastic. It is an option to recycle waste from the canal on a large scale and convert it into plinths to avoid further waste in the canal, the message would be nice. But we still suggest installing a steel plinth. Plastic will degrade over time due to weather, wind and UV radiation and will continuously release microplastics, which we must avoid at all times. Moreover, more people chose the steel plinth than the plastic version through the panel we installed.
The possibilities with steel plinths are also very diverse. The plinths could be perforated in such a way that the perforations form a text, poetry for example, just like on the quay along the Koolmijnenkaai or another message. The plinths could also consist of different colors and shapes to convey a message or as a kind of work of art. Collaborations with various associations along the canal through Brussels could also be a nice addition.
Above is an example of a plinth in galvanized steel 3 mm thick. This could be placed in places where the lowest horizontal bar of the railing is too high. In places with the horizontal bar at a height of 23 cm the plinth can be attached to the bar instead of the fold at the top of the plinth shown above.
A plinth of 23 cm high in galvanized steel, 3 mm thick, would cost approximately 23 euros/m delivered and installed. For 9,7 km the total price is 223.000 euros. This is without taking into account the varying spacing of the vertical posts of the railings.
For a total price of approximately 250.000 euros, the entire canal in Brussels can be equipped with plinths that can stop an enormous amount of waste. Waste that can easily be cleaned up on the quay and will never end up in the sea. This also means enormous savings in clean-up costs in the canal where it is very difficult to clean up waste. 250.000 euros is a very small investment for plinths that almost don’t need maintenance, will serve countless years and would stop a very large amount of waste.