The concept of a circular economy is garnering increasing attention from policymakers and industry stakeholders worldwide.
A research team, which includes SINTEF, has compiled 25 ideas aimed at assisting the aquaculture sector in adopting the circular use of plastic materials. These ideas are presented as part of a set of guidelines, accompanied by explanations and practical instructions.
“The goal is to enable the industry to reduce consumption and achieve its environmental objectives by making greater use of discarded materials and implementing measures to extend the lifespan of existing plastics,” says SINTEF researcher Helene Øyangen Lindberg.
Optimizing Plastic Usage
According to Lindberg, the aquaculture sector uses a significant amount of plastics and generates large volumes of plastic waste. This is why it’s essential to manage these plastics more effectively.
“The sector has expressed a desire to improve its climate footprint and do what is necessary to prevent plastics from polluting the external environment,” says Lindberg. “A more extensive application of circular processes is the natural solution if we want to meet our Norwegian and global resource consumption goals.”
The researchers have focused primarily on measures that actors in the sector can implement to produce less waste.
“The POCOplast project (Pathways to sustainable post-consumer plastics in aquaculture) addresses both the development of circular processes and the restructuring required within the companies participating in the project. As researchers, our role is to monitor the companies and use them as examples of how the transition to a circular economy can be achieved,” Lindberg explains.
Understanding the Circular Economy in Aquaculture
To better understand the goals of the POCOplast project, it is essential to grasp the fundamentals of a circular economy and how it can be applied to the aquaculture industry. In a circular economy, the focus is on minimizing waste and maximizing resource utilization. The aim is to keep materials and products in use for as long as possible, extracting their maximum value, and then recycling or upcycling them at the end of their lifecycle.
In the context of aquaculture, the POCOplast project emphasizes the post-consumer phase of plastics. This involves recycling and waste management but goes beyond that. The project aims to encompass measures that promote a more circular approach throughout the entire lifecycle of plastics used in aquaculture.
A Guide for Circular Plastic Use in Aquaculture
To make this knowledge more accessible and practical, the project has chosen to present its findings in the form of a guidebook. Drawing inspiration from the format of hiking guides, the aim is to assist relevant stakeholders in navigating the path toward more circular and sustainable plastic use in aquaculture.
This guide will explore specific measures that actors in the aquaculture value chain can adopt to make plastics more circular. It will provide information on the theory behind the circular economy and relevant concepts, as well as the regulatory context of plastics in aquaculture. By offering this guide, the POCOplast project aims to facilitate the adoption of circular economy principles in the aquaculture industry.
The Research Team’s Inspiration
The research team drew inspiration for presenting its 25 ideas from a travel guide format. The guidelines serve to illustrate which actors in the value chain, including manufacturers, users, and waste management companies, should implement changes. The idea is for each actor to adopt circular processes that best fit their way of working.
The POCOplast project is at the forefront of transforming the aquaculture industry into a circular economy model. By bringing together various stakeholders and sharing knowledge through a guide format, the project aims to inspire and guide the industry toward a more sustainable and circular use of plastics.
As the concept of a circular economy gains momentum globally, POCOplast stands as an excellent example of a collaborative effort that can lead to significant change in how we approach materials and resources. With the potential for far-reaching impact, the project offers a path for other industries looking to embrace circular economy principles and reduce their environmental footprint.
The POCOplast Project
POCOplast stands for “Pathways to sustainable post-consumer plastics in aquaculture.” The project is defined as a KSP project (Competence and Collaboration), established with the aim of researching how companies in the aquaculture sector can achieve a higher level of circularity in their use of plastics. It was launched in 2020 and is funded by the Research Council of Norway. The project will conclude in the fall of 2023. This ambitious initiative brings together organizations such as Bellona, Empower, Flokk, Grieg Seafood, NCE Aquatech, NOPREC, Plasto, NTNU, and SINTEF, with the primary goal of exploring the potential of a circular economy in the aquaculture sector.
Henrik Brynthe Lund
Reference (open access)
Helene Øyangen Lindberg, Tuva Grytli, Stephan Kubowicz, Christian Karl, Henrik Brynthe Lund, Mathias Irgens, Assiya Kenzhegaliyeva. 2023. Plastics in aquaculture: A circular economy guidebook. SINTEF. 69 p.