August 1, 2019

Visit Amsterdam and help clean the canals

Filed under: Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 10:46 am

By now you’ve probably heard of overtourism, and that Amsterdam is one of the European capitals affected by it. People are going to continue to come to Amsterdam, but there are ways of not being a nuisance and contribute to a positive atmosphere: helping the city clean up the plastic in the canals.

Set up eight years ago, Dutch group Plastic Whale aims at creating economic value from the plastic waste the boat tours dredge from the canals. Plastic bottles are separated from the rest of the rubbish and recycled to be used in office furniture or even in building more Plastic Whale boats. They also have tours of Rotterdam, which is not yet overrun by tourists, where they attracted some 12,000 visitors in 2018 just to fish some plastic.

Plastic Whale’s founder Marius Smit says that despite the growing strain on Amsterdam from huge numbers of tourists, local residents are also “careless with their own waste”. I can attest to this even outside the city centre as I’m an ‘adoptant’ of the bins on my street. “The city’s bins fill up more quickly because of the numbers of tourists […]. Before you know it, there is a lot of waste on the streets, then it begins to rain or the wind begins to blow and it rains or blows into the canals,” Smit adds.

Britain’s Prince Harry was supposed to be one of the visitors earlier this year but had to cancel due to the birth of his son Archie.


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January 21, 2019

Whale in Utrecht made from ocean plastic

Filed under: Animals,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 1:43 pm

The whale shown above was made from old plastic and is called ‘Skyscraper (The Bruges Whale)’, named after the summer art and architecture festival at which it was exhibited last summer in Bruges, Belgium. A professor from Utrecht University liked the whale so much, she was committed to getting it installed in Utrecht, and it was recently unveiled. It can be found in the Catharijnesingel.

The whale was created by StudioKCA of New York City, run by Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang. The creators explain that is it a baby whale 12 metres high made from five tonnes of plastic, including a 1970s drum kit for some reason. Klimoski said that if anybody thinks this is a lot of plastic, imagine what’s floating around in the ocean. A lot of the whale’s plastic is from Hawaii where there’s a lot of plastic soup to be found. The rest of the plastic was fished out of rivers in New York state.

Why didn’t they use plastic from the North Sea to build an artwork in Bruges? Simply because they work in the US and that made more sense. Had they built the whale in Belgium, then they would have used plastic from the North Sea for sure. Although the plastic was found in the US, much of it comes from the European continent (namely Russia) and China, which gives people an idea how far plastic travels in the ocean.

(Link and photo:

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June 6, 2014

Whale uncovered on 17th century Dutch painting

Filed under: Animals,Art by Orangemaster @ 10:56 am

Whale painting - after

A painting on display for some 140 years at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, United Kingdom by Dutch painter Hendrick van Anthonissen entitled ‘Gezicht op Scheveningen’ (‘View of Scheveningen sands’ in English) from 1641 has recently been restored, uncovering a stranded whale.

One of the men in the painting seemed to be hanging in mid-air when in fact he was sitting on the whale. Someone at some point in history thought it would be good to paint over the whale, but nobody knows why. Conservator Shan Kuang has apparently not been able to date the extra layer of paint, though she suspects it may be from the 18th century and done because an owner thought the whale was repulsive or that a dealer thought the picture would sell better without it.

Here is a video made by Cambridge University featuring Shan Kuang, the conservator who made the discovery.

(Links:,, Photo: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK)

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