Automatic system sweeps Antwerp dock for plastics and rubbish


The port of Antwerp is trying out a passive cleaning method to removes plastics and other river trash with no energy and little effort

Rubbish hotspot

The port of Antwerp is experimenting with a new method for removing plastic waste and other rubbish from its docks. If successful, the approach promises to be a more efficient and effective way of cleaning up the port, and other inland waterways.

It’s not Antwerp’s fault that there is so much rubbish bobbing about in its docks. Like much of the Belgian coast, it sits in a south-westerly weather pattern that pushes all kinds of trash its way. This washes into the city’s vast shipping complex and accumulates in particular corners.

At present, a waste collection barge – majestically named the Condor (pictured) – roams the port, scooping up any floating rubbish. But this takes fuel and personnel to operate, and even then it cannot get into every nook and cranny where trash accumulates.

Simple and easy

One of these inaccessible rubbish hotspots is the most northerly corner of the Doel dock. This is where the new clean-up method, designed by Dutch company Allseas, is being tested.

The new method is passive, requiring no energy to operate and only a minimum amount of maintenance. A 100-metre boom sits on the surface of the dock and harnesses the movement of the water to guide floating rubbish towards a collection bin. Here a filtration system separates large and small pieces of rubbish, which helps its eventual disposal.

The bin is eight cubic metres, and once it is full, a crane on the quayside lifts it out of the water and empties it into a truck. Plastic fished out of the dock will be sent for recycling, while other waste is disposed of in the most appropriate way.

To emphasise its green credentials, the boom itself is largely made out of recycled plastic.