7 Juli 2017

Marine Litter – Time to clean up our act

Brand owners, converters and the fishing sector are coming together to recycle plastic waste from the sea. Are we finally ready to take responsibility for the mess we created?

There are various approaches to tackling the global issue of plastic waste in seas. While prevention of dumping is key, brand owners and companies can get involved by recycling waste into new sustainable products. The value chain begins with collection at sea – and Waste Free Oceans makes use of the ocean waste collected.

Erik Solheim, Head of the UN Environmental Programme, called attention to the fact that plastic litter is depositing on the seabed at the North Pole, as well as entering the food chain and ending up on our plates. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation called attention to the fact that eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste leak into our oceans every year, equivalent to one garbage truck dumping its load each minute. If nothing is done, there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050 there will be more plastic waste in our seas than fish.

Clearly, the amount of plastic leaking into our oceans needs to be reduced, as well as the debris present in our oceans today.

Organizing the Collection and Recycling of Marine Litter

Waste Free Oceans unites the fishing sector, the plastics industry and processors to transforming floating ocean plastic by collaborating with fishermen and companies to create ocean plastic products: Fishermen collect “ghost nets”, plastic bottles and other plastic wastes; recyclers sort and clean the refuse, and companies recycle the raw material in combination with other recyclates to design a new item.

So far, ten European countries (Belgium, Holland, Spain, Turkey, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and France) have been “fishing for litter”. Equipped with a special trawl net, fishermen collect 6 to 8 t of plastic waste per journey during their fishing voyages. The costs for this are borne by the partner companies or processors, often to send a clear signal for the responsible management of resources.

Together with the detergent manufacturer Ecover, for example, ocean plastic from the Portuguese processor Logoplaste was processed and turned into a bottle. Companies using a lot of packaging are showing a noticeable interest in using recycled material as informed and environmentally aware customers drive sustainable change.

At a time when the topic of extended producer responsibility and the circular economy are gaining ever more relevance, Waste Free Oceans thus creates the decisive bridge. At the same time, the issue of marine litter must also be addressed by improved waste collection and sorting on land. To this end, among others, WFO works with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the UN Environment Programme and the Diplomatic Council.

Source: Bioplastics MAGAZINE, 2017-06-29.

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