FACT: Global marine plastic little compromises an estimated stock of 83 million tonnes of plastic waste accumulated in oceans, with the recovery of plastic materials being an arduous and costly task. This can change with a vision of circular economy, where waste will become a new resource and re-enter the supply chain.
A new EU-funded project aiming to develop automated technologies for the removal and recycling of marine litter is kicking off this week, and the Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University of Malta is one of the partners.
The project will design, manufacture and integrate scalable, replicable and automated technologies co-powered with renewable energy and second-generation fuel, to identify, remove, sort and recycle all types of collected marine litter into valuable raw materials.
MAELSTROM, which stands for Smart technology for MArineE Litter SusTainable RemOval and Management, will over the course of the next four years, bring together the expertise of a number of partners from across Europe, from research centres and recycling companies to marine scientists and robotic experts, in order to leverage the integration of complementary technologies.
These include the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (National Council for Research), which is coordinating the project, and another 13 partners from Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Netherlands, the UK and Malta.
MAELSTROM's main goal is to find strategies to reduce the impacts of marine litter in costal ecosystems, by identifying accumulation hotspots and by removing the existing litter from the coastal seabed and the water column of rivers before it reaches the sea. This is particularly important as marine litter poses a serious threat to both aquatic life and to ourselves, and parts of it can enter the food chain and get into the food we consume.
Three sites across Europe have already been identified as demo implementation sites, namely two spots on the Venice lagoon, and the Duoro Estuary in Portugal.
The removal technologies include two automated systems: barrier of air bubbles and a large robotic platform. The barrier of air bubbles is generated by a system laid on the riverbed or installed in strategic positions in the lagoons and port areas. It will allow the recovery of waste while contributing to the reoxygenation of the water. The large robotic platform will automatically remove solid waste located on the seabed and in the lower layers of the water column with high efficiency.
MAELSTROM’s design draws from the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of the European Union, which aims to protect the seas and oceans, and is in accordance with the Circular Economy Action Plan. The project will also contribute to Goal 14 of the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development: "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development".
MAELSTROM is a Horizon 2020 Project and is funded to the tune of €6 million.
More information can be accessed from the project website.