Large amounts of litter flow through our streams and rivers. To get a good idea of how we can reduce these flows, we first need to know what floats in our surface water. There are waste researchers to find out. These researchers have been trained by, among others, ‘Schone Rivieren’ and meticulously register which types of waste they encounter on the banks. Thijs Belgers (73) is one of these researchers. He examines the waste from the Roer at the ECI Cultuurfabriek in Roermond. In this article you can read what his motivation is and what he thinks.
Thijs Belgers is a sport fisherman and has therefore been watching with sorrow for years how the litter floats along in the Meuse and its tributaries. “My sense of shared responsibility as a sport fisherman and as a sport fisherman gave me energy to contribute to a solution for litter. I think it’s important to get the junk out of the Meuse and its tributaries, including plastic. This is important for the environment and the appearance of the surrounding area. Garbage doesn’t look good and from my character I want everything to be tidy. And it is also important that all that waste does not end up in the ocean. We sponsor the Maas Cleanup from sport fishing, and as a director we participate in the clean-up campaigns. As sport fishermen, we also know our responsibility and we take it”.
Thijs Belgers, Sherlock Holmes of the Plastic Soup
Thijs registered a while ago as a waste researcher at the Clean Rivers network. “In the spring and in September I do inventory research. I keep track of what I have found by means of a peat list from IVN. This peat list is based on the stichting de Noordzee peat list. The Limburg water board collects the waste at the lock gates, we ourselves collect everything at the ECI by lifting the grate cleaners. Waterschap Limburg does the first sorting. Then I sort it even more, bottles by bottles, cans by cans and condoms by condoms and write everything down on the form. This will then go to IVN for their investigation. In this way we try to find out what is flowing in and where it comes from. So that we can tackle it at the source (companies or people), environment/greener packaging. This is the only way to solve it.”
In addition to registering the waste, everything is also well documented with photos. By registering the origin of the waste, a dialogue can be started with the producers. This way we can look together for solutions.
Special finds by Thijs Belgers!
In addition to plastic bottles and chips trays, Thijs sometimes finds special things. “Over the past two years, there has of course been an increase in the number of face masks. The most special find is a small children’s clog and a complete golf bag. In addition, we often find parts of cars such as a half hood, car tires. And we have already fished no fewer than 16 car radios from the stream. We also find more stolen items that are dumped in the ditch”.
For now and later
Thijs is not thinking about stopping yet. “I’ve gotten several people to do this and I’m also trying to get people to sign up to participate as a researcher. People react very positively to this and feel so involved with the water that they start helping. That’s what I do it for. The more people participate, the better we can tackle the problem. Hopefully the streams and the Meuse will be a lot cleaner in a few years, thanks in part to our efforts”.
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