Tackling the harsh realities of marine pollution

As the appetite to curb the flow of plastic pollution in our oceans continues to grow, Circular Ocean Project Co-ordinator, Julie Crowley, tells us about an event happening in Cork today, September 4
Tackling the harsh realities of marine pollution
Pictured in Kinsale, Project Co-ordinator for Circular Ocean, Julie Crowley (right) with Eamonn O'Neill, left (Kinsale fisherman) and Comedian and Clean Coasts advocate Colm O'Regan, launching the European Seminar, which is being hosted by the Circular Ocean Project on September 4 at County Hall, Cork. Pic: Brian Lougheed

CURRENT research estimates around eight million tonnes of plastic enters our oceans each year, with the Ellen McArthur Foundation citing that there is likely to be more plastic than fish in our seas by 2050.

Globally, the potentially detrimental effects of marine plastics, particularly through lost and abandoned fishing gear is of ever increasing international concern.

Its significance has been highlighted by recent developments at EU level with the potentially transformative EU Plastics Strategy 2018 specifically addressing measures on port reception facilities, gear marking and producer responsibility schemes, which combined have the potential to bring considerable positive change to the management of waste fishing gear. This is the focus of the award winning transnational European Circular Ocean project, which seeks opportunities for recovery and reuse of waste Fishing Nets & Rope.

The initial concept for the project emerged from Cork County Council’s “Macroom E” initiative through our national SMILE Resource Exchange Programme — a FREE service for businesses, we encourage the exchange of resources between its members in order to save money, reduce waste going to landfill and to develop new business opportunities. Members of the SMILE network highlighted the problem posed by waste fishing nets in Ireland, which from initial research seemed to be mirrored internationally.

The three year Circular Ocean project has worked to create awareness of the detrimental environmental impacts of end of life fishing nets and rope, while inspiring communities to divert waste fishing gear materials from our oceans and landfills for reuse, recycling and new product development.

Funded under the ERDF Interreg VB Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) Programme, Circular Ocean has also undertaken various streams of research into the potential applications of nets in areas such as 3D printing and as a reinforcement material in the construction sector, while offering practical support to SME’s in establishing a product/business utilising waste nets, promoting the concept of circular economy and eco-innovation.

As the sole Irish partners, we are preparing to welcome delegates from Norway, Greenland, The Netherlands, Scotland and England to join with key industry experts at an event which takes place in County Hall, today, Tuesday, September 4.

There has been lots of interest in the event, as the public appetite to curb the flow of plastic pollution to our oceans continues to grow, while finding ways in which to give new life to waste material is fast becoming a commercial advantage. We hope the event will inspire further support for current initiatives, encouraging others to rethink waste plastic as a valuable raw material.

We are particularly pleased to be working in conjunction with Cork County Council on the project, given its relevance to Cork as one of the largest fishing regions in the country, with a proud maritime tradition.

This will be Circular Ocean’s final seminar and will delve into the harsh realities of marine pollution, bringing together a selection of experts directly involved in initiatives that work to combat the dangers of marine plastic, while also introducing potential solutions for end of life fishing net material uncovered by the project’s international partners. Aiming to inspire ideas to create value from what is otherwise considered a waste material, the seminar will also give attendees the opportunity to view a showcase of innovative products made from recycled nets.

International partners will impart details of their research and learnings from their work on the project, including Circular Solutions presented by The Centre for Sustainable Design (UK), evaluating fishing gear resource management by the Norwegian University of Science & Technology, reuse of fishing nets in the construction sector undertaken by Greenlandic partners, The Arctic Technology Centre and an alarming look at the impact of marine plastics to seabirds by the Environmental Research Institute in Scotland.

Project partners will be joined by guest speakers including Deirdre Clune MEP, Lucy Hunt, Sustainability Education Manager at the Volvo Ocean Race, Sinead McCoy Coastal Community Manager at Clean Coasts and Pascal van Erp of Ghost Fishing International. MC for the morning will be critically acclaimed comedian, columnist, broadcaster and Clean Coasts advocate Colm O’Regan. The event will be opened by the Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Patrick Gerard Murphy, along with Cork County Council Divisional Manager Mr James Fogarty.

The Circular Ocean project has enjoyed much success over the term of the project, having been announced as one of the EU’s 60 emblematic projects on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Rome Treaty, winning the Public Choice Award at the European Commission’s 2016 RegioStars Awards and has been referenced on European level on many occasions during its term, including most recently in the European Commission’s ‘A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy’.

For more see www.circularocean.eu

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