To clean the banks of waste and depollute the river, the Slop Express II patrols the port of Rouen every day to collect garbage, oil and wastewater.
The wind rises on the banks of the port of Rouen (Seine-Maritime). At the foot of the William the Conqueror Bridge, a few rays of winter sunlight pierce the gray sky and sweep across the Seine. Sitting comfortably at the helm of his boat, Sandro Amand sails with confidence. His ship from the 1970s, 67 meters long, must dock with an American cruise ship which has arranged to meet him to get rid of its garbage.
Like the garbage trucks in the city center a few hundred meters away, the Slop Express II collection of plastic, cardboard, oil and waste water from liners that stop at the river port. An obligation imposed by the port authority on arrivals. On the Ecoport software, captains must declare the quantity of waste they are transporting, that which they plan to produce during their next crossing and their storage capacity.
If an overflow forms, the boat has no choice but to call on Sandro Amand’s ship to unload its trash. A way to prevent discharges into the river. “It’s a titanic job, the intervention log fills up from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” comments the commander from his cabin, focused on the maneuver he has just undertaken.
Unclog the banks of the Seine
In 2010, with his two partners, this boatman, a former cruise ship captain, convinced the port of Rouen to patrol his boat on the Seine. The objective: to unclog the banks and depollute the river. They hire staff and start by collecting the waste by hand. Today, a crane comes to help them grab and compact the garbage.
On the hold, the smell of trash cans stings the nose. Gloved and wearing fluorescent coats, employees Béatrix and Arnaud exchange plastic bags to place them in the bins. “It smells really bad, it’s hard. But I feel useful, Béatrix emphasizes, without ever losing her smile. Today I see a lot less waste in the water or on the docks. » Every month, nearly 40 tonnes of garbage are recovered.
Ahead of the Olympics
Once the waste has been loaded, sorting takes place. Then resale. Trucks ship the cardboard and plastic to a private provider, and a farmer collects the food waste for anaerobic digestion. Ordinary garbage is incinerated. “And Rouen is cleaner,” exclaims Arnaud, dressed all in orange.
In an industrial city marked by waste from the refineries that surround it, this initiative appears beneficial. Especially since the question of the health of the river is attracting attention with the hosting of Olympic Games events in Paris this summer. “We chose this service because it is much more virtuous, much more flexible, we act upstream on the quality of the water,” insists the deputy commander of the port of Rouen, Arnaud Gogly. Following this logic, the ports of Bordeaux, Lyon and Paris adopted a similar river waste collection policy a few years ago.
Beyond the health and ecological aspect, this system is part of a recent policy of promoting the quays. Until the early 2010s, the banks were occupied by factories in decline. The town hall has redeveloped pedestrian streets, where restaurants, a shopping center, a concert hall and businesses have come to set up. Enough to gradually give rise to neighborhood life. “If we treated the waste by trucks, the banks would always be clogged, and there would be a constant smell of garbage,” emphasizes Sandro Amand.
At lunchtime, only the tempting aroma of the kitchens spreads. Nobody pays attention to the rounds of the Slop Express II. Valérie is one of those Rouennais who lunch daily on the quays. Business manager, she set up her office nearby. When discussing the reasons for her choice, she underlines the “attractiveness” of the place and a “pleasant and clean living environment”. A few meters away, a group of office colleagues push open the door of their favorite brasserie, while Béatrix and Arnaud finish collecting the waste. Not a candy wrapper or an empty bottle floats on the water.
The recipes for the success of Slop Express II
- Continuous service. A pair of sailors lives on the Slop Express II, ready to unload ships 24 hours a day, for fifteen days. He is then replaced by another team.
- A legal obligation. Since 2019, a European directive has required ports in Europe to ensure that boats leaving their docks can store their waste before heading to another port area. The port is responsible for collecting waste, if necessary.
- Practical software. To comply with the law, the port of Rouen created the Ecoport software in 2022. Captains provide information on their quantity of waste; Slop Express II can thus plan its collection.