Startup in Residence Northern Netherlands: tackling plastic waste with Noria

From rivers, canals and out to sea, wherever the water flows, so does our plastic waste. To keep our waterways clean, Noria develops sustainable and affordable solutions to the plastic waste problem in inland waters, from the city to the sea. The clean tech startup is working together with Groningen Seaports to test a new product, called the Canal Cleaner. How are things going so far? We catch up with founders Rinze de Vries and Arnoud van der Vaart.

The two entrepreneurs met while both working for Movares, an engineering firm, but the idea for Noria goes back further, when Rinze was still a student at the Delft University of Technology. “I entered a contest to help solve the plastic waste problem for one of the regional Dutchwater authorities and my idea won”, Rinze explains. “And that idea became our first product for Noria, when Arnoud and I decided to take the plunge and start our own company in 2018.”  

Waste, co-creation and Archimedes

Noria maps out the locations where plastic can be collected, remove it from the water with their energy-efficient and fish-friendly systems and then process the plastic into new products. “We all know plastic waste is a huge problem, but one of the biggest challenges is when people start asking the question: whose problem is it?”, Arnoud says. “When you look at the Netherlands on a policy making level, there are so many organizations involved and responsible when it comes to our canals, rivers, lakes and seas. And to really tackle this problem, all those different organizations need to be involved and on board.”

Groningen Seaports has been a great help in tackling that challenge, Arnoud says: “We really like working with them. They’ve helped us out with different permits and actively involve their huge network as well. Co-creation has always been really important to us, not just to help get everyone on board, but also because different types of waterways pose different challenges, so you need tailor made solutions.”

For the Startup in Residence program, Noria is testing a new product, called the Canal Cleaner. The prototype may be new, but the principle it uses to get the plastic out of the water dates back to ancient Egypt: “It’s called an Archimedes screw”, Rinze explains. “It’s a screw-shaped surface or spiral that pumps the plastic up without it being harmful to fish or plant life. And whereas our Circleaner is used for rivers, our new prototype is specifically designed for canals and waterways in cities and harbors.” 

Multiple pilots

“The first step of the Groningen Seaports pilot is doing the research and figuring out the scope of the problem and mapping it out”, Arnoud says. “Because of the winds and currents, there are certain areas in the harbor where the majority of plastic waste ends up. The second step is testing our Canal Cleaner prototype, which we’re likely going to do in the second half of June this year. It’s exciting for us, because we’ve been testing a scale model of our prototype so far, and this is going to be the full size model.” 

But this isn’t the only pilot for Noria, though. “We’re doing a number of pilot programs throughout the country this summer”, Arnoud continues. “We’re exploring the opportunities in the city of Leeuwarden and also one close to Sittard, in the south of the Netherlands, which is also going to be very exciting, because the landscape is more hilly, so that means a whole new set of challenges, because the water currents are very different.”