The Ecoeuros Project

by - 6:00 PM

At the start of 2018, I had no New Year's Resolutions whatsoever. I had no idea of what I wanted to do this year, what kind of goals I wanted to reach. I just knew that I wanted to make a difference in this world, a change. I just didn't know how.

At some point, I was reminded of the Ecoeuros project. I'd walked past an Ecoeuros machine on my way to college for years and now I walk past one on my way to work every single day. I knew you could throw old cans and small plastic bottles into it and that'd somehow help the ocean. But that's all I knew. Besides, I'm not a big fan of oceans. Everything in it scares me. Except for turtles and sea cucumbers. Those are okay.

Despite my fear of the ocean, I went snorkeling in Cuba early in February of this year. That's when it hit me: my hypothetical children will never get to see the coral reefs I saw if we don't do something, anything for our planet right now. I decided to do just that through Ecoeuros. And what better day to tell you about my Ecoeuros journey than Earth Day? Brace yourselves, because what started as a simple plan to recycle soda cans and small plastic bottles soon became much more than that.

The first thing I did when I came back home from the Caribbean was research on the whole Ecoeuros project. Simply put, it's a sort of bottle deposit scheme. Here in the Netherlands, we have such a scheme for 1-liter bottles and bigger ones, but nothing for smaller bottles and cans. As a result, they are thrown away all the time, often by the side of the road. Especially the plastic bottles are a problem, as they'll end up in the oceans and will most probably never decompose. Ecoeuros makes it possible to have those bottles recycled. In return for your bottle (or can), you get to choose between a coupon that grants you a discount at certain local businesses, or a donation of €0,15. The RET, Rotterdam's public transport operator, donates those 15 cents to Blijdorp, the local zoo, which in turn uses the money to fund a project that fishes plastic waste out of the ocean.

I was immediately excited about this whole thing and couldn't wait to get involved. One of the machines where you can bring your bottles and cans is right on my way to work, so I started looking for stuff to recycle right away. I asked my boyfriend, grandparents and neighbors to stop throwing away their empty cans and bottles. On February 21st I brought the first can to what I now call the 'donation station'. But that was still only the beginning.

Soon after starting my research, I started noticing just how many empty cans and bottles were just thrown away on streets, in parks, and by the side of the road. Sometimes literally less than a yard away from a garbage can. I'm not talking about a can here and a bottle there, but dozens. Literally dozens. So one day I grabbed a bag, started walking and picked up over 20 pieces of litter that could be used for the Ecoeuros project and, indirectly, to clean up that big and scary ocean. That way I felt even better about what I was doing: I wasn't just helping the ocean, but also my direct environment.
Instead of having this stuff lying around, the plastic gets recycled. Ecoeuros works together with several partners to get that all done. One of them is called WasteBoards and these guys use plastic bottle caps from the Ecoeuros machines to make skateboard decks. As someone who recently started skateboarding again, I couldn't love this use of old plastic more!

Every now and then I took a can or bottle with me on my way to work. In the meantime, mostly on the weekends, I went out to pick up recyclable litter. After a week or three, I started to get annoyed with myself for the amount of plastic bags I was wasting on these picking trips. You see, bottles are fine, though sometimes a little sticky. Cans, on the other hand, are the worst. More often than not, I've been treated to a shower of beer, soda or energy drink when someone didn't finish their drink. All of that stuff ended up in my bags, which had to be thrown away after being used once. That seemed counterproductive, using so much plastic to help a project that focuses on keeping the oceans clean, so I made it a rule that I could only use a plastic bag if I'd found it on the picking trip itself or a previous picking trip. A quick walk around town can result in 4 to 5 bags. Still, I wasn't entirely happy using plastic bags. That's when my mom, who'd also started going on picking trips to help me, decided to make me a reusable, washable bag. She crocheted a bag from old cotton that might have been around when my country was under German rule sometime in the previous century. Her nagging daughter was finally happy and the quest for bottles and cans continued. I try not to look like too much of a weirdo, though incidentally, I will do something like walking onto a company's lawn because they don't clean up their litter. That's what you get for trying to dump ice tea cans in a pond.

A few weeks have passed since the reusable bag was made and I could go on zero waste picking trips. I've picked up lots and lots of cans and bottles since then. My parents pick up at least as much as I do and even my granddad has started picking up recyclable litter. Apart from the cans and bottles, I also started picking up other pieces of trash that can easily be recycled, but I think that's a story for another time. For now, I'm just happy I can do this. It gives my life some kind of purpose. My goal is to have collected 1000 bottles and cans for Ecoeuros before the end of this year. Believe me when I say that I will make it, purely based on the number of bottles and cans I find on the streets of my hometown. So I finally found a way to make a difference in this world, but honestly, I can't do it on my own. If you're in the Rotterdam area and bought a can or bottle of soda, please bring it to an Ecoeuros machine once it's empty. You can find them on subway stations Beurs and Eendrachtsplein among others, as well as on Rotterdam Central Station. If you're not anywhere near Rotterdam, please consider just using less plastic bottles and cans, pick plastic-free alternatives whenever possible and maybe, if you're up for it, clean part of your street every now and then. If we all make some small changes, it will add up to a big one. So let's do this thing together and save those scary oceans of ours!

x Envy

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5 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Yey! I am so glad that you are doing something good for the earth by picking up that plastic. I agree that it is a huge problem. People don't even know most of the time how much they are screwing up the planet. I have started taking shorter showers and walking more as my contribution to a better planet. Every little bit helps and if we all do them we should have a better earth. i had a giggle at your ocean comment. I for some reason am terrified of the sea as well. It's just so deep and eerie. :S

  2. I'm so happy that you've taken part of the Ecoeuros project! It is so important to reduce our waste while recycling whatever we can. It's so sad to see the ocean being cluttered with a ton of junk! Our ecosystem is suffering because there are people who can't consider the environment a little. Glad there are some actions you can do! I try to recycle whenever I can and avoid plastics because they're hard to break down. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :).

  3. What a fantastic idea and good luck on your clean up goal!
    I wish there were initiatives like that around here.
    I need to see a picture of your bag!
    Cora |

  4. I really wish we had something like this here too! I think it would really motivate people to pick up trash or at least carry their own trash to these deposits.
    Also I'm going to have to agree- I also want to see the bag your mom made!


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