Auke-Florian Hiemstra and Liselotte Rambonnet, founders of the Leiden initiative 'De Grachtwacht,' were honored to receive the NWO Communication Initiative Award on November 28th. The Leiden initiative, established in 2018 after Leidens Ontzet, emerged when the founders were alarmed by the amount of litter in the water after the festivities. They addressed the issue comprehensively, and after discussions with politicians and signature collections, the first edition of Leidens Ontzet took place in 2019, during which a switch to a single type of deposit cup was implemented.
Hiemstra stated, '99.2% of the cups were returned. The canal was cleaner after an average market day.'
Every Sunday, fifteen bags of litter are removed from the water with a fleet of cleanup canoes. In addition to the cleanup canoes operating weekly, the Grachtmuseum is located at Mareburg in Leiden, housed in a bridgekeeper's cottage. The Grachtmuseum is another initiative of the founders where the most extraordinary findings from the Leiden canals are exhibited
Local Fish with International Impact
A remarkable discovery that led to a significant scientific publication in a biological journal and garnered attention from international media outlets such as CNN, The Guardian, and National Geographic involved a perch entangled in a disposable glove. This perch triggered the first scientific investigation into the impact of COVID litter on animals. The Grachtwacht, as a local initiative, gained global attention through its nomination for a prestigious photography award, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award from the Natural History Museum in London.