A new impuls

The Premio Leonardo da Vinci XLIV

We would like to give the award more impact by making it a catalyst to start a much bigger campaign for an issue that concerns us all. A goal that could be of importance for all the Leonardo da Vinci Rotary Clubs. A common goal, connecting us all, potentially resulting in a joint campaign within Rotary International.

Do you realize how unique our European Leonardo network is and how powerful it could be? Aren’t we the only European Rotary network within Rotary International?

Plastic Waste: a Rotary International campaign?!

Rotary Club Amsterdam has a long tradition supporting water projects and we have a strong Rotary water network with other Rotary Clubs in our district. So our focus is on water. You know of course that water is also one of the six strategic causes of Rotary International.

We see plastic waste in the oceans as a major global problem.

More and more plastic is floating in our oceans and seas. It comes from rubbish that we throw away on the street, fishnets that are discarded, and from washing synthetic clothing and brushing our teeth. All these different types of plastic together form the plastic soup in the seas and oceans.

Every minute, the equivalent of one full garbage truck of plastic trash is dumped in the sea. That is 1440 trucks per 24 hours and 8 BILLION kilos per year. If we continue with our plastic habits, by 2050 the oceans will have more plastic than fish!

Weathering, sunlight and wave action break down large pieces of plastic into small pieces. This causes serious pollution. The oceans constitute 72% of the earth’s surface and are our primary oxygen suppliers. They are the primary source of food for more than half the world’s population. But because plastic is not biodegradable, the plastic soup is lethal for many marine animals.

It is not an easy problem to tackle. Cleaning the oceans without preventing plastic waste from being transported to the seas is nothing short of Sisyphean labor. So cleaning and prevention should be taken into account in a global campaign. Creating awareness is the most important challenge to start with: people all over the world should know about the dangers of pollution by plastic waste. Secondly, concrete measures have to be taken to clean the oceans, to minimize the amount of plastic waste reaching the oceans and to minimize the use and the production of harmful plastics.

As local Rotary Clubs we may be instrumental to an increase in awareness in our own communities. Measures for cleaning and prevention have to be taken at a national and international level. That is where our Rotary network comes into the picture.

We would like to put this issue on the agenda of Rotary International. It would be great if worldwide Rotary Clubs could work together campaigning against plastic waste. Rotary International ‘ended’ polio, why not also plastic waste?


Step 1. Our laureate Boyan Slat

We found a laureate for the Leonardo da Vinci Award, who is most likely able to help us start this campaign: Boyan Slat.

Boyan Slat is a 22-year-old Dutch, once a student in air and space dynamics. Swimming and diving in the Mediterranean he was shocked by the amount of plastic around him. It became his ambition to find a solution for the plastic soup in the oceans. He invented a cleanup system that gathers and collects the plastics floating there. He also managed to find enough sponsors through crowdfunding to start his experiments. The first experimental plant has been tested in the Atlantic Ocean in 2016. Summer 2018 The Ocean Cleanup will start in the Pacific Ocean.

Boyan Slat is CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, an organization of ca. 60 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers, with headquarters in the Netherlands and an operational base in San Francisco.

Please, take a look at the kickoff presentation for the Pacific Cleanup by Boyan Slat:



Step 2. Rotary Clubs in Amsterdam Region are creating awareness

We noticed that the story of Boyan Slat and his efforts to clean the ocean is bringing about increased enthusiasm and awareness. People immediately realize the importance and the urgency of removing the plastic waste from the oceans. They also become aware of the fact that we should prevent plastic and other waste from reaching the oceans in the first place.

Our sister Rotary Clubs in Amsterdam are committed and motivated to act. I told my colleague-presidents about our plans with the Leonardo da Vinci Award and our ambition to scale up the issue in the international Rotary network, and they immediately decided to plan a joint campaign in Amsterdam. The result is that on the very same day we will have the celebration of the Premio Leonardo da Vinci XLIV, Rotarians of ten Rotary Clubs and pupils of different schools together will be fishing plastics and waste out of the canals of Amsterdam!


Step 3. Rotary Clubs participating in Leonardo da Vinci join the campaign

This letter is to invite you, our sister Rotary Clubs participating in the Premio Leonardo da Vinci, to join the plastic waste campaign. That means to look for ways to create awareness on the issue in your own city, to spread the ideas of the campaign in your Rotary districts, etc.

So, what do you think, is this an issue that is important for your club too? And would your club consider contributing in one way or another to the campaign?


Step 4. Proposing Rotary International to launch a plastic waste campaign  

The Leonardo da Vinci Rotary Clubs, the Amsterdam RCs and maybe some Californian RCs together will be able to create a flywheel effect, rolling out this campaign through Europe, in the USA and worldwide. Through our contacts in the USA we have reached out to the President of Rotary International and proposed him to invite Boyan Slat as a speaker at the RI Convention in Toronto.

Rotary International could be the forum where the combined powers of RCs will join other world-wide organizations in a successful cooperation, much like the way Rotary International has realized the End Polio Now campaign.


Leonardo da Vinci 2018: sustainability

Rotary Club Amsterdam has chosen sustainability as the central theme for this year’s Leonardo da Vinci event. We have the ambition of organizing it along the lines of ‘practice what you preach’.

The choice of our laureate, the fishing in the canals and the Rotary plastic waste campaign will most certainly generate publicity around the ceremony of the Leonardo da Vinci Award. We are preparing an interesting program, with a presentation by Boyan Slat and a panel discussion with speakers from different backgrounds.