Nordic Watchlist got to speak to Danish-based non-profit excursion company GreenKayak about how they are tackling the problem of plastic waste in Copenhagen, and beyond.
Tell us about the GreenKayak concept
We started to collect trash floating around the waters of Copenhagen during private tours. Tobias, a professional sea kayaking instructor, paddled around the canals with his groups and started to collect plastics and other waste. Soon he noticed that the next day there was trash in the same places all over again.
Help was needed to counteract this problem, and everyone should be able to participate. This is when the first free-of-charge GreenKayak was launched in Copenhagen in April 2017 (at that time named Miljøkajakken). The offer was well perceived and pre-booked for months in advance.
During the first two seasons, roughly 3,000 volunteers collected 10 tons of primarily plastic waste from Copenhagen’s canals and at various beach clean-ups. We realized that there was an opportunity to do something beyond just the aquatic environment in Denmark’s capital.
Many waters around Europe and the world are polluted and people in Denmark saw this as a fun way of helping to clean them up. This is when we realized that we could make a change globally when working together with local communities around other cities and countries.
How did the idea come about?
Oke, business school graduate with start-up experience, joined in late 2018 and we rebranded from Miljøkajakken to GreenKayak. This is where we started our efforts of becoming a global movement for good.
The hard work quickly paid off and we have grown fast ever since. We expanded our operations from Denmark to four additional European countries growing our fleet from 3 to 58 GreenKayaks. We managed to activate more than 22.000 locals and tourists from all around the globe in the fight against ocean pollution during 2019. The same year we won the Svend Auken Environmental Award.
In 2020, we expanded to further cities and became a UNESCO Green Citizen project. A total of 17868 kg of trash have been collected that year only with the help of 12047 volunteers.
In 2021, we grew to a total fleet of 73 GreenKayaks placed across Europe. The European Environment Agency mentioned us in their rapport on plastics in Europe’s environment. The season has been the most successful so far with 18.5 tons of trash collected and more than 12.4k people involved in the fight against ocean pollution.
This year, we placed kayaks in our existing countries and expanded to the other side of the world. Starting from now you can also book yourself a time on the water in Tokyo to clean up the local waters of the Japanese capital.
We are now present in various cities across Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Japan. We also offer guided tour to groups, tours, events, and educating the youth – in Copenhagen, Hamburg and Berlin.
When are the best times to take part in the excursions – do they run all year?
Our GreenKayak season is from 1st May until 30th September.
Any recommendations on what we need to bring with us for the trip?
For your trip you should bring sporty and adequate clothes for the current weather conditions and be aware that your bum can get wet. You are paddling on the water!
What is the strangest thing you have found on your trips?
We find loads of weird things such as e-scooters or q-tips.
Where is one of your favourite spots to visit in Copenhagen?
Copenhagen is a beautiful place and no matter from what location you start the paddle, you will always have a nice view.
Want to learn more about GreenKayak? Head over to their website www.greenkayak.org
Interview by Alex Minnis