Dredging sludge is mainly taken away and disposed of as useless waste. NETICS has developed a system to turn that same sludge into valuable building materials, such as the GEOWALL, which is made from sludge that is dried and compressed into building blocks.
“Our technology is proving its value in wide-ranging projects. In England, for example, the breakwater we’ve designed to protect a harbour is made of dredging sludge from that same harbour. It was a project involving quite a few challenges, but the results have been great. And then in Drenthe we worked with KWS and the Vechtstromen water board on a project that used GEOWALL blocks to reinforce the banks of the Oranje Canal. And there, too, the results achieved so far have been really positive. In the meantime we are also working on improving our technology, including researching how we can improve GEOWALL blocks by reinforcing them with natural fibres – hemp, for example, or cellulose from recycled toilet paper. That’ll make them so strong they can even be used for housebuilding. We’re soon going to launch a pilot to test them out in Groningen. In 2016 we sold a stake in the company to Royal IHC, which builds dredging vessels among other things. So there are plenty of opportunities for synergy. Together we have the knowledge and expertise to build ‘dredging factories’, which are machines that can be used locally to compress huge volumes of reclaimed dredging sediment into blocks. Customers currently still have to pay a few euros per cubic metre to dispose of sludge, but we’ll soon be turning that sludge into building blocks worth a multiple of that. Thanks to IHC’s network we can also grow fast internationally. We’re now active in fourteen countries, mainly in Asia. Indonesia, for example, has a huge problem with subsidence. The Jakarta coastline is sinking by a few decimetres each year. And that sometimes means seawater surging through the streets. We think we can solve part of that problem by using local sludge, rather than expensive construction sand, to raise the level of the land. Getting involved in these sorts of international projects has always been one of our dreams.”