S4W Open Call Challenge

Pharmaceutical Pollution


Host / Region

LUCA School of Arts in collaboration with
GLUON and presentation of the results at
STARTS partner BOZAR/ Flanders


This residency designs and imagines new measures that work towards a more sensible use and disposal of pharmaceuticals, the development of greener manufacturing and better wastewater treatment.


pharmaceutical wastewater treatment, safe reuse, marine and river pollution, antibiotics contamination, restoration of water-related ecosystems

Description of the regional challenge

The condition of our waters teaches us much about our health in general. Every year, the residues of 1500 tons of active pharmaceutical ingredients end up in our water supply chain, leaving their marks on our oceans, rivers and lakes, as well as all of their living organisms. Are we sufficiently aware of the environmental impacts of the pharmaceutical industry today? Pharmaceuticals are essential for human and animal health. However, the presence of their residues in freshwater systems is increasingly recognised as a contaminant of growing concern to environmental and human health. For example: psychiatric drugs alter fish behaviour; the overuse of antibiotics is linked to antimicrobial resistance, itself a global health crisis; when feminised, fish and amphibians become more vulnerable to predators and develop abnormalities in their organs and reproduction. 

How can we overturn this system and develop a holistic approach that cares not only for humans, but also for the aquatic ecosystem as a whole? 

Region information

Belgium is a major pharma valley in Europe. While the country represents only 2.2% of the EU’s population, it lays claim to 12.5% of pharmaceutical investments made in the EU. As the number 1 in pharmaceutical R&D investments per inhabitant, Belgium wants to tackle the presence of pharmaceuticals in freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems.

How is the mission S+T+ARTS driven?

A highly collaborative residency bringing together diverse stakeholders with expertise in wastewater treatment, digital technology, health care, biodiversity, environmental engineering, environmental chemistry and aquatic ecology, working towards the design of new measures to reduce pollution and to encompass the entire life cycle of biodegradable “greener pharmaceuticals”. As an artist, you will take an active role in questioning existing systems and boosting awareness around this challenge through a tangible artwork or an innovative application, product or service that contributes to a pollution-free environment. 

The result of the residency will be shown in STARTS partner, Bozar- Centre for Fine Arts (Brussels), during the STARTS4Water exhibition in Fall 2022. 

Residency support network