How important is plastic recycling in the aquaculture sector?

How important is plastic recycling in the aquaculture sector?

Researchers believe that there is great potential for better and commercially viable plastic recycling in the aquaculture sector

Results from a recent research project are indicating that better plastic recycling in the aquaculture sector is possible. It is believed that the sector can reduce waste and simultaneously generate wealth by recycling its industrial hard plastics.

“We’ve been looking into everything from administrative terms of reference to rules and regulations, the current state of our knowledge and, not least, levels of acceptance within the industry,” said SINTEF researcher Sigrid Damman.

“These factors are just as important as any technological developments.”

Specific recommendations to the aquaculture sector

Creating a circular economy is a complex process.

First, there needs to be an awareness of the opportunities available when utilising a resource. Stable and regulatory frameworks must also be put into place. This will enable us to use new materials and products without entailing high levels of risk.

As well as this, the right legislation and regulations must be implemented to facilitate new initiatives.

Now, researchers are presenting specific recommendations both to the aquaculture sector and the public authorities.

What is the POCOplast project?

The team are working on a project called POCOplast, an abbreviation of “Pathways to sustainable post-consumer plastics in aquaculture.”

The project was established to look into all aspects of the value chain, and how to better plastic recycling in the aquaculture sector.

Researchers at SINTEF have been working with seven partners to conduct a thorough analysis based in part on almost 30 interviews with a variety of stakeholders.

“We’ve been looking into what goes on among the various actors in the value chain, and have also tried to understand the barriers that exist in the current regulations,” said Damman.

The project is set to be completed in autumn 2023.

The EU has made amendments to its regulations

The EU has already made a number of amendments to its rules and regulations and is also offering more funding for research.

“Perhaps we can go even further by requiring that recycled plastic material be incorporated during the manufacture of industrial plastic products,” said Damman.

“This will boost development, but it will be a bad move to stipulate new requirements before we’re sure that we have sufficient capacity in place. Nevertheless, we ought to be setting more specific targets for the levels of incorporation of recycled material in the manufacture of industrial hard plastics.”

Many companies are interested in plastic recycling and developing new products. However, they are demanding greater assurances when it comes to materials flow.

“For example, it’s crucial to users of the material that they have reliable access to products of uniform quality.

“And those who receive the plastics for recycling have to know that there is sufficient demand. They also need to understand, and be able to document, that they are supplying plastic that meets the needs of their own customers,” said Damman.

The key to success: Greater responsibility for manufacturers

The team believe that the introduction of new arrangements that place greater levels of responsibility with the manufacturers is the key to success.

An arrangement like this will be in place before the end of 2024. It will entail manufacturers assuming complete responsibility for the life cycle of entire products.

There is also talk of introducing funding programmes that will make it commercially viable to design products that are suitable for recycling.

“The happy outcome of all this is that we will be able to create new products, and jobs in the districts, based on resources that were previously classified as waste.

“The most important thing here is to set targets for materials recycling, including industrial hard plastics,” said Damman.

“This will offer greater predictability, which will in turn encourage a greater willingness among actors to invest in circular economy systems.

“We need to stipulate clearer requirements for the recycling of all plastics, including hard industrial plastics. Current requirements offer only the wording ‘plastics suitable for recycling’, which, of course, makes it somewhat unclear as to the materials that are included.”

Establishing acceptance of new materials and products

To establish better plastic recycling processes in the aquaculture sector, an acceptance of new materials and products must be established.

If the sector is to start using new materials and making new products, it will have assurances that they will work and that they are as reliable as existing ones.

It is important to direct a focus on plastic recycling in the aquaculture sector, and that norms and standards will be developed in step with new materials and products.

“Last, but not least, it will be crucial to establish dialogue with the relevant public authorities,” said Damman.

“Good intentions will be to no avail if the authorities cannot offer a regulatory framework that enables the industry to see the benefits of adopting innovative materials and products.”

Plastic recycling in the aquaculture sector has great importance

Establishing a circular economy through plastic recycling in the aquaculture sector will be very important for many reasons.

First, marine plastic waste has a negative impact on ecosystems and is harmful to marine life. A circular economy will contribute towards reducing the volumes of micro- and nanoplastics entering marine ecosystems.

Circular economy initiatives are important for reducing the use of virgin plastics. This will result in less greenhouse gas emissions and will help reduce global warming.

“Furthermore, there will be environmental benefits linked to the fact that less plastic will be combusted or sent to landfill, where pollution due to water run-off can be a problem,” said Damman.

“The happy outcome of all this is that we will be able to create new products, and jobs in the districts, based on resources that were previously classified as waste.”



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