Thursday, March 21, 2013

Companies to make nylon from recycled ocean debris

Nylon polymer manufacturer Aquafil, sock company Star Sock and the European Centre for Nature Conservation (ECNC) have announced a new joint initiative aimed at cleaning up the world’s oceans from litter – particularly fishing nets –and recycling it into garments and fabrics.

The ‘Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear’ initiative aims to keep waste away from landfill and prevent it from reaching the world’s oceans (where it can trap and harm marine animals) whilst turning the material into a resource.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), lost or discarded fishing gear makes up one tenth of all marine litter, equivalent to 640,000 tonnes. Although most lost fishing gear is not deliberately abandoned, the FAO states that it can continue to trap and kill marine life for months or even years after being lost, comprising a form of ‘ghost fishing’.

Under the new project, all appropriate marine waste, such as fishing nets, will be turned into Econyl, a nylon product manufactured by Aquafil from recycled plastics. By creating nylon from recycled materials, Aquafil estimates that the process will eliminate 11,00 tonnes of waste and save 70,000 barrels of oil every year.

Phased introduction

ECNC describes the project as comprising three main phases, with a ‘detailed action plan’ being made public before the end of April 2013.

The first phase will see operations commence in three test regions: the North Sea (with the Netherlands and Belgium participating), the Adriatic Sea (Italy, Slovenia and Croatia) and the Mediterranean Sea (Spain). This pilot scheme will be run with the purpose of identifying the most efficient practices for the project.

The second phase will seek to identify procedures that will help deter the abandonment of fishing nets at sea and encourage responsible end-of-life handling. This phase will also see the expansion of the project ‘into other areas’, according to ECNC.

The final phase will see proposals for future action being developed and, according to ECNC, ‘submitted to governments and legislators to ensure that the Healthy Seas Initiative will deliver long-term results and that public awareness will be maximised’.

The initiative will be open to NGOs and other businesses, but contributions from local communities, experts and operators will also be reportedly welcomed. Events and training courses will also be held ‘to promote and raise the awareness of people, including the younger generation, about the preservation of our seas’ environment and health’.

In addition, a ‘Healthy Seas Fund’ will be established with the goal of removing abandoned fishing nets from the oceans, raising awareness of the problem and financing local projects that support the objectives of the Healthy Seas initiative.

The project is the latest intiative to tackle the growing problem of marine litter, coming just days after Ecover and Closed Loop Recycling announced plans to recycle plastic debris collected from the oceans into new packaging. Similar efforts are being made in America, where companies Method and Envision Plastics are creating bottles for various household products made from ocean debris, including plastics from the floating litter island known as the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’.

Read more about the ‘Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear’ initiative or discover more about the impacts of plastic on our oceans in Resource 70, where we speak to film director Candida Brady about her new movie TRASHED and the growing impact of waste on our environment.

Source: Resource

Image courtesy of Upupa4me via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)