Irish Marine Pilot Scheme Finds Use For Recycled Fishing Nets

July 31, 2013 at 9:00 AM

A pilot project to manufacture commercially-viable products from recycled polyethylene fishing gear has been completed successfully in a forward-looking collaboration between Bord Iascaigh Mhara (Irish Sea Fisheries Board) and Liverpool-based plastics recycler Centriforce Products.

Polyethylene can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.  BIM is striving to find ways of preventing hundreds of tones of gillnets and other fishing gear from going to landfill or, being illegally dumped.  The problem of ‘ghost fishing’, in which lost or abandoned nets hundreds of metres long can continue to catch fish in large numbers, is also serious.  It threatens fish stocks, can kill other species like dolphins and damages the marine environment.  

Having successfully proven a process for recycling nylon gear, BIM, in liaison with Green Marine Recycling and GEOLINE, joined forces with Centriforce to develop a pilot project for recycling polyethylene nets and related items such as rope and twine.  Hundreds of tonnes of recycled nets and other gear is collected by BIM from ports around Ireland and stored to avoid sending the waste to landfill.  

Myles Mulligan, Gear Technologist for BIM explains:  “BIM had already established a process for cleaning and transporting the polyethylene netting to be extruded into pellets suitable for product manufacture, but realised that to further the research and development of this particular material,  it was necessary to find a specialist manufacturer who was prepared to assess, test and attempt to make a useable product from it.

“We had searched to find a manufacturer who could take the marine-quality recycled polyethylene pellets and convert them into a useful product.  This particular material had been unproven and other plastic industry manufacturers had expressed an unwillingness to work with it.  However, Centriforce expressed an interest in the project and subsequently gave a commitment to endeavour to develop the recycled fishing net pellet into a marketable product”

Niall Troy, of GEOLINE Ltd, approached BIM following the acquisition of a contract with ELECTROLUX IRELAND to provide and install an insulation liner for a 25m (L) x 12m (W) x 2m (H) sprinkler reservoir at their plant on the outskirts of Dublin.  They believed it was the ideal opportunity to showcase the possibilities of using the polyethylene sheeting manufactured by Centriforce incorporating up to 75% of the recycled fishing gear along with 25% of other recyclables.

“Centriforce were able to show they had a robust extrusion process that could produce a 12mm plastic sheet which we have called CM Board - “Comhshaol Muiri” or “Marine Environment” Board.   We are hoping that the board can be marketed for other similar commercial applications in future” said Mr Troy following the successful installation in the facility in Long Mile Road, Dublin.

Simon Carroll, Managing Director of Centriforce Products said:  “We were delighted to work with BIM to find a technical solution to recycling polyethylene waste from the Irish fishing industry. Centriforce is always keen to innovate commercially-viable uses for recycled plastic.  In this case, the end product is similar to our proven Stokbord® recycled plastic sheeting, so we can be confident it is a robust product.”

“Working together with BIM, we have successfully demonstrated a means of ‘closing the loop’ on a serious issue for the marine environment.   We are continuing to examine ways of taking the project further and looking at other potential products that can be manufactured from the recycled material.”

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