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Join us on an expedition on the canals with plastic spotter canoe fleet!

Collecting plastic and sorting it out together! (Photos: Jacob Kaptein / National Geographic)


Below you can sign up. All materials are provided by De Grachtwacht, including the canoes. Participation is on your own risk and completely free, but a donation is always welcome. You can donate through this link.

Practical information

  • Your backpack can get wet, so make sure to put a waterproof bag or trash bag around it.
  • Take something to drink or eat with you in the boat.
  • If it's sunny, don't forget to apply sunscreen.
  • If it's cold, wear proper warm clothing.
  • In case the weather is too bad or other unforeseen circumstances, we contact you an hour in advance.
  • To give everyone a chance to join, the maximum group size is 4.

Terms of participation

  • My participation in the clean-up is at my own risk.
  • I am personally liable for damages caused to third parties during the participation of the clean-up.
  • I agree that De Grachtwacht and the coordinators involved in the clean-up cannot be held liable in any way for personal injury or damages incurred to personal property.
  • De Grachtwacht may cancel a reservation as we would like to give everyone a fair chance to participate. Due to the limited number of canoes we would like to ask you not to reserve a canoe every week. If you would like to come along more often, you can, for example, walk along the side.
  • During the clean-up we take photo and video footage. These are used for educational purposes, or, for example, to reach new volunteers and show that plastic does not belong in the canal. We share these images on social media. By participating you give permission for the use of photos and video on which you are visible.

Date storage and usage

When signing up for any of our activities, you will be asked for your name, e-mail address and phone number. This information will not be sold to other parties, but will be used functionally:

  • Your email address will be used to send you a confirmation and reminder email.
  • Your phone number will be used on the day itself if the activity is cancelled last minute due to weather conditions, or if you are not yet present at the start of the activity.

More than waste

During the clean-ups, we don't only collect waste, but also data. When we moor the canoes after a clean-up, we see new plastic floating by. Cleaning up alone does not solve anything. But by analysing our finds and systematically charting them, we try to trace the source and thereby turn off the tap on shore. Through our research, we are trying to prevent new waste from entering the water and are working towards structurally reducing the amount of plastic in the canal. You can read more about our research here. We are taking the most unusual finds from the canoe fleet to the bridge operator's house on the Marebrug in Leiden. Here, right above the water, De Grachtwacht has its headquarters and we keep the most exciting finds in our collection, see here. Top finds from the collection can be seen in our window exhibitions. Have you visited us yet? Read more about our museum here. Our clean-ups do not go unnoticed. From local to national and even international media report on what happens here in the canal. From The Guardian to CNN and National Geographic wrote about the clean-ups in Leiden and our finds. More news can be found here.

Our fleet

For the clean-ups and research on the canal we have a nice fleet at our disposal. Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign by Leiden University, we were able to purchase six two-person canoes, which offer space for 12 volunteers, also known as citizen scientists. Our fleet of more than 500 volunteers can now navigate the canals armed with paddles and prods. And the fleet keeps growing! More and more people with their own canoes are joining in, and suppers are also joining in. And the bigger the fleet, the bigger the loot! The actions are coordinated from the research vessel RV01 (Research Vessel 01). This Volksboot of Leiden real estate company sails completely electrically thanks to the Torqeedo engine and is recharged while sailing by the solar panels on the deck. All the fenders were collected as litter in the Leiden canal and the rope used to tie it down is made from empty plastic bottles. In order to have the canoes collect as much as possible during a clean-up, the research vessel takes over all full bags and resupplies all canoes where necessary. The RV01 also serves as an 'animal ambulance on water' and rescues many an animal from the canal. During the trip, analysis of the finds starts here, making the RV01 our floating lab. Further research takes place in the bridge house.