Employees from Delft and Arnhem unite for a second year to spread the word about our world’s plastics problem
When boating crews set sail, there are a few things they may hope to see: captivating views, crashing waves, abundant see life, and mammoth glaciers. One thing they don’t want to encounter? Plastic waste. Yet plastics production has increased 20-fold since 1964, and waste is increasingly entering the world’s oceans.
35 Stantec volunteers in the Netherlands used Stantec in the Community (SITC) Week 2018 as an opportunity to spend a weekend on the Waddenzee (Wadden Sea) with a team from not-for-profit organization By the Ocean we Unite. This was the second voyage Stantec and By the Ocean we Unite have undertaken together to tackle our oceans’ pollution problem called “plastic soup.”
A special combination—an engineering firm and an environmental foundation
Stantec began work with By the Ocean we Unite in 2017. Through sailing expeditions, lectures, and research, this foundation brings awareness and prevention of plastic pollution in our oceans and on our beaches. It is led by a group of enthusiastic sailors, marine biologists, scientific researchers, and documentary makers who are passionate about protecting this world.
“We are working with By the Ocean we Unite to help extend their platform and to show our people that we care about this problem,” says communications manager Jorg Kemper, who is based in Delft and supports offices in the Netherlands and beyond. “It also provides for excellent team building, which resonates with our employees, especially our young professionals.”
Our team in the Netherlands supports the foundation through the purchase of research material, knowledge sharing, promotional events, and client introductions. The Stantec employees involved are also investigating how they can involve others from across our Company.
“Our projects help create a better environment,” says Delft based consultant Leontien Cenin. “Because I work in waste resources, I see the whole supply chain and outflow of plastics into our environment. It creates a major threat and we don’t want to stand on the sidelines.”
Employees leave their desks and hit the high seas
By the Oceans we Unite took our Stantec volunteers out on an expedition across the Wadden Sea that took up an entire weekend. “It’s important for our colleagues to get a sense of the plastics problem,” Jorg says, “We use this weekend to give the employees the opportunity to view it themselves.”
The 35 volunteers left on a Friday afternoon and spent the night on the boat. They conducted research on Saturday, then finished with a sailing trip to the islands north of the Netherlands. After a night there, they helped with a beach clean-up on Sunday.
“We found less plastic than we’d found on the Stantec expedition in 2017,” says Fabienne Doveren, marine biologist at By the Ocean we Unite said. “Only 3,561 particles per square kilometre, versus 7,291 in 2017. But it doesn’t mean there’s less plastic out there, unfortunately. It’s most likely due to the tide levels.”
The Stantec team likely didn’t even see the majority of the plastics present. That’s because the refuse in the ocean often sinks to the bottom breaks down into small pieces that aren’t easily visible. But what you can’t see can hurt you.
It’s a problem that affects us all; that’s why we’re moving to be part of the solution.