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“Surprises are simply part of a cleanup mission.”

everwave is preparing at full speed for the upcoming cleanup mission in Cambodia. Jan Klosterhalfen accompanies the mission and is already involved in the planning of another mission. We spoke to him about the challenges.

For everwave, the year 2022 begins with a lot of organization because there are several important projects on the agenda. As we have previously reported through our channels, our garbage collection boat is on the sea route to Cambodia. Soon we will start our first cleanup mission in Southeast Asia there – generally our first mission outside of Europe.

Due to a lack of recycling structures and mismanagement in local waste management, thousands of kilos of waste find their way into the oceans there every year. Our local partner, the NGO “River Ocean Cleanup“, has been drawing attention to pollution in the region for years. Our common goal will be to collect as much garbage as possible from the Mekong, Bassac, and Tonle Sap rivers. But we will not only work there in the future. To our delight, there will also be a reunion with the Balkan region, more specifically in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Jan Klosterhalten, our project engineer, was able to accompany some of our assignments last year and is also involved in the planning and implementation of the assignments in Cambodia and Bosnia this year. In a short interview, he describes his impressions and also tells us about the different challenges the team has to face on site.

Jan is a project engineer at everwave and has already accompanied a number of cleanup missions. He is also involved in the planning of our mission in Cambodia.

Hi Jan, you have already accompanied and organized some of our cleanup missions. In your experience, what are the most important factors to consider when planning this?

I was allowed to accompany some missions, especially in the Balkan region. It has always been clear to me that a strong local partner is immensely important. Since we want to use and support the local infrastructure, it helps a lot if we have a contact who knows the local language and the general processes. In this way, we can more easily coordinate and adapt our idea of ​​the cleanup mission with the local framework conditions and carry out the operation as smoothly as possible.

everwave will soon be heading to Southeast Asia for the very first time, more precisely to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. You have already been there and are now even busy with the next assignment in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Two very different locations – what do you think are the significant differences?

In my opinion, the differences between Cambodia and Bosnia-Herzegovina lie primarily in the conditions at the locations. In Cambodia we work in the city, on three rivers and the climate is characterized by wet and dry seasons. Working with the garbage boat at high temperatures and the fluctuating water level on site is also new for me. In the Balkans we have so far primarily worked on reservoirs. The conditions there are very consistent. But the composition of the garbage is also different, while in the Balkans we find a lot of wood up to large tree trunks, in Cambodia we find more plastic and less organic material.

The nice thing about planning and organizing is that it rarely goes as planned. What “surprises” have you already experienced in operational plans and how was it possible to react to them?

That’s just part of it. As we not only try to get the material out of the water, but also to collect data and recycle the material, the number of little things that can surprise you keeps increasing. An example from Slovakia, where we were deployed at the end of 2021: We knew the location from our first assignment in 2020 and the entire transport to the lake and boarding the boat was organized quickly. Unfortunately, we were then informed that all bridges in the region were closed or being repaired at that time. A new approach route had to be found and we had to ask for a static assessment of a necessary bridge. During our Cleanup Mission in Serbia, we had to deal with a defective mobile crane. There, a small spring, slightly larger than in a ballpoint pen, disabled a 70-ton mobile crane that we had used to load the boat out of the water and onto the truck shortly beforehand. Unfortunately, the mobile crane blocked the exit so that the boat could not be transported away. Unfortunately, the only thing that helped was waiting until we managed to get the truck through a narrow gap. Over time, you expect surprises like this and I’m a little more relaxed about them now.

Thank you for the exciting impressions, Jan!