Green Mobile Barrier to stop floating trash in Brussels canal

Since the very beginning of Canal It Up, we have been working on a permanent solution to counter the problem of trash in the canal. We are proud to present our proposal here, developed in consultation with the Port of Brussels. To be clear, the real solution would be a society without single-use and throwaway packaging. But until this is a reality, trash will continu to find its way into nature and into the water. The structure we propose would enable a permanent and efficient clean-up of the floating trash without disturbing boat traffic.

The water of the canal streams gently from south to north taking floating trash along. We would like to use this stream to guide it towards a single point of collect. The barrier would be placed diagonally on the water in front of the Molenbeek lock. This way trash will bump against it and be guided to the side towards a litter trap. Once in the trap it will not get out again, even in case of winds from the opposite direction. The litter trap will then have to be emptied on a regular basis.

The barrier would cover the whole width of the canal ensuring that 100% of all floating trash is collected. Moreover it would be fitted out with a 50 cm grid to contain trash under the surface as well. What about the boats then? The operator in charge of the doors of the lock would have a good view on the barrier and would be able to open and close it to let the boats pass.

The structure also has the potential to be more than just a trash barrier. It could bring added-value to the neighbourhood, upgrade it, be some sort of artwork. This is why we contacted Luc Schuiten, architect, artist and visionary, to help us find an additional dimension to the concept. What came out of it is a green barrier, a floating structure carrying various aquatic plants, which take their nutrients directly from the water via their immerged roots. You can admire Luc Schuiten’s drawing at the top of this page. The floating trash is thus stopped in its course by a “natural” barrier. In a way, it gives a voice to nature rebelling against the pollution caused by mankind. A strong message. The side of the canal will also be embellished with some extra floating vegetalised islands.

The Port of Brussels is currently conducting a study about the problem of floating trash in the water. Canal It Up together with Brussels Environnment and Vivaqua will follow up the study. The study will analyse our trash barrier as well and it will check whether it is technically compatible with the lock operation. The consultancy agency conducting the study will present its recommandations in May 2022. The Port Of Brussels engaged itself to implement the recommandations of the study to stop to flow of trash.