Tunnel vision

Pieter De Poortere



Antwerp, Belgium


“There is tragedy in human shortsightedness, but it is also the basis of a lot of humour. How far will we take the absurd?”
These stories come at a critical moment for the port of Antwerp.

Tunnel vision: How long is the tunnel?

Belgian cartoonist Pieter De Poortere has put his best-known character, Boerke, to work for solutions to the plastic pollution crisis, asking the question – do we really need more plastic?


De Poortere’s 4 comic strips follow Boerke as he navigates the plastic pollution crisis, undertaking several roles and ventures that invariably go wrong for him, whether that is by striking a disastrous deal with a plastics factory, making a high-risk investment or attempting to cut down on plastic packaging waste by misguided means. 

“Dickie is sometimes bad, sometimes he is good, sometimes he is a loser, sometimes he is really greedy, he is selfish, he uses people … People laugh, but think twice – is this really happening?”

Like in other major petrochemical hubs across the world, proposals for new plastic plants are quietly being reviewed by  Antwerp’s local authorities & partner stakeholders who are looking to attract investment in the region. Boerke raises the question: in the face of the plastic pollution crisis, is this the type of industrial development that should be prioritised right now?

Is the port of Antwerp investing in the future, or in the past?


As more and more ambitious policies are taking effect and consumers around the world have become well aware that we cannot recycle our way out of plastic, demand for plastic packaging is set to significantly decrease in the coming years. Why lock in more packaging production for the coming decades when the business risk curve keeps going up?


Learn more about the petrochemical situation in Antwerp.

How to break the absurdity cycle?

In the heart of Antwerp, Robuust offers a retail service with sustainability at its core, tackling plastic pollution at its source – by omitting plastic packaging altogether.


Believing in local, organic products brought to customers through short supply chains, Robuust avoids the need for recycling altogether, reducing CO2 emissions and providing the best quality products for their customers.


Similarly, in Mechelen and Kapelle-op-den-Bos, in the Flemish region of Belgium, Kabas chooses to offer a range of carefully selected and high-quality food, maintenance products and utensils – packaging-free.


Kabas gives consumers the opportunity to live and shop in a way that not only protects the environment, but tends to their pockets, investing in the quality of the product rather than its packaging. 

In Belgium and across Europe, a growing number of innovators and entrepreneurs are leading the shift. Packaging-free shops are flourishing across the continent, as lawmakers, financial circles and consumers take note of the opportunities offered by smarter sustainable lifestyles. 


Cities such as Essen and Malmo have already shown that is it possible to radically transform a city’s economic model to reduce its dependency on old-fashioned industries that were once considered successful and safe. Like many other petrochemical hubs and regions around the world, Antwerp is set for a transformation.

Is Antwerp investing in the future, or in the past?

A safe future for the region (and for other ambitious cities around the world) implies:


  • A change in the narrative from “recycling will save the day” to “reuse  is the new normal”.
  • Local and national policies and investment schemes that enable zero-waste business models.
  • Knowledge sharing and support packages to help large and small businesses transition to package-free, new-generation supply chains.
  • Stopping the permitting of unnecessary plastic production infrastructure.

Get involved: Strengthen reuse in Antwerp

Join a group of like-minded citizens, creators, students and entrepreneurs to contribute to projects that enable the reuse evolution in Flanders. Help the Port of Antwerp transition away from absurd, harmful petrochemical projects and toward a sustainable economic plan that truly benefits its citizens, the environment, and all parties involved.

About this Story

Producer: Camille Duran

Artist: Pieter De Poortere

Coordination & Media: Megan Neill Andrés

Creative & Operations Support: Laura Weiland

Operations Support: Tatiana Quiroz Marín

In partnership with #BreakFreeFromPlastic.


Funded by the Cosmic Foundation & the Plastic Solutions Fund.

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