Aimplas, the Plastics Technology Centre, emphasises the importance of continuing to remove plastics from the sea on World Oceans Day, held on 8th June. The presence of litter in seas and oceans is a problem that moves forward in parallel to the industrial economic development of society, which is of increasing concern. A very visible part of this contamination corresponds to plastic wastes that consumer do not place in specific collection points. In the line of environmental responsibility that Aimplas follows, the Centre is working on several projects to recover plastic waste and end-of-life fishing nets and recycle them to manufacture new products, such as textiles or even furniture.
Aimplas has processed around 5,200kg of marine litter and from that material, manufactured 15 benches as a part of the Coca Cola Circular Seas project in collaboration with the Asociación Vertidos Cero and the NGO Plàstic Preciós. The first bench was installed in Madrid on World Oceans Day and the rest will be placed in the ports from which the litter was recovered in recognition of the 500 fishermen involved.
Additionally, Aimplas has successfully completed a project to recover marine litter funded by CaixaBank and the Bancaja Foundation within the framework of their second call on the Environment and Sustainable Development. This project made it possible to manufacture new pieces of furniture, namely, a bench weighing 840 kg and measuring six metres in length made of 100% recycled plastic material and 15% end-of-life fishing nets and other marine litter.
Technology solutions in line with the circular economy
With the Repescaplas Project, Aimplas has made it possible to develop a complete management system for plastic waste recovered from the sea and subsequent recycling to manufacture products of commercial value. This project has met the goal of expanding knowledge about marine litter, its location and different types in order to create a complete passive fishing strategy and management system for this waste thanks to cooperation from the fishing industry, as well as mechanisms for recovery of the plastic fraction.
The Repescaplas Project was developed with the cooperation of the Biodiversity Foundation and the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge through the Pleamar Programme, co-funded by the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP).
The European Oceanets Project is another example of a project which aims to develop technological solutions in line with the circular economy model for end-of-life fishing nets. New methods are therefore being researched to prevent the loss of these nets and facilitate their recovery and reuse, as well as their recycling as new textile products with high added value.
Aimplas has included an additive in the material the fabrics are made of that changes color when exposed to infrared radiation. This makes it possible to certify that the raw material comes from end-of-life fishing nets. The project is funded by the European Union European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EASME).
Aimplas is also researching solutions to remove micro and nanoplastics from both urban and industrial wastewater to prevent their release into the environment. These projects respond to growing concern about the existence of plastic particles measuring less than 5 millimetres (known as microplastics) and less than 1 µm (known as nanoplastics) in wastewater.
Because no standardized methodologies are currently available to analyse the presence of these materials, Aimplas is developing an innovative method to provide support to companies, so they can improve their environmental safety and anticipate future regulations on the use and production of microplastics in products and the generation of industrial effluents. To capture micro and nanoplastics from wastewater, Aimplas is developing new purification technologies with ultrafiltration membranes to be combined with pilot-scale anaerobic digestion processes. It is expected to be over 99% effective.