Geographies in Depth

This Danish scheme is offering free kayak rides... for picking up trash

Tourists look at the sculpture of the Little Mermaid, inspired from a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, a famous landmark of Copenhagen January 26, 2011.  REUTERS/Radu Sigheti (DENMARK - Tags: CITYSCAPE SOCIETY TRAVEL) - GM1E71R06US01

GreenKayak is making litter collection fun. Image: REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Fresh Water is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Fresh Water

On some European waterways a fleet of kayaks has been fitted with an unusual accessory… a trash can. These bright green boats are free to rent, but volunteers are required to work for their trip by collecting floating waste.

The initiative is the brainchild of GreenKayak, a Denmark-based environmental not-for-profit with a mission to clean up the continent’s canals, rivers and lakes.

Volunteers can take to the water in one of the project’s colourful two-person kayaks, equipped with paddles, life vests and trash pickers. While enjoying the countryside, kayakers can pluck garbage from the water and fill the onboard trash can.

Making a splash

Inspiration for the project came as its founders sat on a canal bank eating pizza, watching out-of-reach debris float by. Jumping into the water fully clothed seemed an unlikely long-term solution so they settled on a more enterprising way to reach the waste.


“You can’t take your shirt off and jump in, but you can get in a GreenKayak and make an impact,” Tobias Weber-Andersen, one of the project’s founders, told USA Today.

Discover

What is Loop?


Although still in its infancy, the scheme aims to address a growing global challenge. According to UN Environment figures, about 13 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans each year, the majority of it fed along rivers from land-based sources. This pollution damages marine life, reduces biodiversity and can potentially harm human health.


A study of Europe’s freshwater environments by Earthwatch found almost 38% of waste in our waterways consists of consumer-related plastic items, such as drink bottles, food wrappers and cotton buds. Other waste largely consisted of non-plastic items, unidentified plastic pieces, or industrial, agricultural or fishing-related waste.

Have you read?


As the above chart shows, five of the top 10 most prevalently discarded consumer-related plastic items are linked to food. The European Parliament has approved a ban on single-use plastics like straws, shopping bags and cotton buds, which will come into force by 2021.

Paddle power

Using kayaks to clean up waterways is helping to remove some of this waste before it can reach the oceans. Since the initiative launched in 2017, volunteers have collected more than 10,000 kilograms of floating waste from Europe’s waterways and the project is growing.

From the first trash collections in Copenhagen and Aarhus, the project has spread to more locations in Denmark, with clean-up flotillas also available in Ireland, Norway and Germany.

Such environmental initiatives help raise awareness of the growing waste problem, particularly discarded plastics, and focus attention on the need to respect our marine environments.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Geographies in DepthNature and Biodiversity
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Talent trends in Asia: How to boost workforce productivity and well-being

Peta Latimer and Catherine Li Zhaoqi

June 20, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum