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Q&A with Vripack’s Marnix J. Hoekstra on the Beach Cleanup Project

31 May 2023 • Written by Lucy Dunn

Dutch designers Vripack have long been famous for their exciting and innovative approach to yacht design particularly when it comes to sustainability, but the team is not just about creating yachts. When they noticed the amount of plastic clogging up our seas they decided to take matters into their own hands. Partnering with Ocean Family Foundation and North Sails, they have designed a set of collapsible waste bins and beach bags made from recycled sails. The idea is that these will be given out to owners and crew of yachts designed by Vripack who take a beach clean-up pledge.

How did the idea come about?

I got the idea a few Christmases ago from one of our captains. He was in the Bahamas and, besides wishing me a Merry Christmas, told me he was on the beach with the owner and guests of the boat doing a beach clean up and wished people would follow his lead. He said he always took a beach bin with him and hoped to inspire people - and I thought ‘Wow, that's such a great idea - there must be so many owners, captains and crew willing to do this too.’ So I decided to create some beach bags.

Why do you use recycled sails in your bags?

I had very good connections with North Sail, a beautiful brand which is deep into sustainability. I knew we needed to not make more waste when we were trying to clean up a beach and wondered if they must have some reclaimed sales or leftover materials we could have. So I approached them and they came on board immediately, closely followed by the Ocean Family Foundation. 

Apart from protecting the ocean, why are beach cleanups important?

“I've done several beach clean ups in different places - Italy, South of France and Holland, obviously - and doing it is really transformative. Your first impression when you step onto a beach is ‘Oh, that's actually pretty pristine there’s nothing to pick up’, but then, on closer inspection look you start finding stuff, between the rocks or the shoreline, and then the next thing you notice is that there’s too much of it and more than you can pick up with your bare hands. And then when you walk along the beach picking up litter you also often see remains of a dead bird or animal and you start wondering how much plastic it had eaten and whether it had died from that. It really makes you think.”

And why is it important for superyachts to play their part?

We wanted to do this with owners because these are people with power, as well as the potential to really act and change things. Hopefully they will take our idea back to their businesses which are often global multinationals and take action too; do something small, like our beach cleanups. And of course, superyachts visit a lot of uninhabited places in the world, places that often end up with a lot of the rest of the world’s junk.

When you sign up for a bag, you sign up to a beach cleanup pledge. Can you explain what this is?

By receiving your beach bag or bin, you are pledging to clean the beaches you land on, it’s that simple. Once you've done a clean, there's a QR code on the bag so you can log where you’ve been and what you've collected so we can create a live map and share the information with scientists.

In the past couple of months, we’ve collected about 600 kilos. Of course, that's not going to change the world but every little helps - and it shows that our industry cares. Various yachts have already participated including Tatoosh, OceanXplorer and Solandge, to name a few.

What do you aim to do with this project?

We just also want to act, choosing progression over perfection, and that actually echoes the mission of Vripack - we believe that sustainability should be seen as a design possibility, whether it’s on a grand scale, like with our Project Zero sailing yacht, or small scale, like with our beach clean ups. We're not going to save the world, but we are making an effort, one beach at a time.

Sign up to Vripack’s Beach Clean Up Project here.

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