GAIA Biomaterials AB: Biodolomer®Ocean for fishing nets

Background Information

GAIA Biomaterials, in collaboration with South African-based partners – Catchgreen, Kompost-it, FishSA, and Alnet – are replacing harmful polyethylene fishing nets with biodegradable nets in an innovative application of Biodolomer®Ocean, a polybutylene succinate (PBS) based biodegradable polymer. These biodegradable Biodolomer®Ocean nets are engineered to match the performance of conventional fishing nets, but if lost or dumped, these nets will disintegrate into biomass without leaving behind any toxins or micro-plastics.

Plastic pollution, due to lost or discarded fishing nets known as ghost nets, is one of the most significant plastic pollutants in the ocean and pose a massive risk to marine wildlife and coral reefs. It is estimated that 90 million tons of plastic waste from fishing nets are generated each year. If fully implemented worldwide, replacing plastic materials in fishing nets with Biodolomer®Ocean and other biodegradable materials could potentially remove approximately 10 million tons of waste from landfills and the sea. Through several pilots in Kenya and South Africa, two major fisheries and marine biodiversity areas, GAIA Biomaterials aims to develop and promote the transition to and uptake of biodegradable fishing nets without compromising fishing performance or livelihoods. Through technological innovation, awareness-raising, and policy development, the project allows the fishing industry to rebalance its relationship to the ocean and promote an environmentally sustainable fishing industry.

The primary outputs and targets for this project include:

  1. New biomaterial compound for marine applications with properties comparable to high density polyethylene (HDPE)
  2. New material tested for manufacturing, with testing manufacturing settings to achieve desired strength and functionality
  3. Piloting results from various applications that demonstrate similar or improved efficiency as HDPE applications
  4. Laboratory testing, with physical, chemical and microbial testing, to demonstrate the biodegradation in seawater over time
  5. Life cycle analysis
  6. Socio-economic impact study
  7. Business plan on how to make Biodolomer®Ocean competitive and affordable
  8. Advocacy engagement reporting

Updates

Two new variants of Biodolomer®Ocean successfully underwent tensile testing at Altnet. Current trials, which were initiated in May 2024, are now aiming to determine the optimum manufacturing settings for the materials as well as a new colour masterbatch developed by MasterbatchSA.

Seaweed farming and gillnet pilots initiated in August 2023 show promising results with biodegradable Biodolomer®Ocean nets performing as well as conventional plastic nets. These pilots will continue until the ropes and nets are no longer functional so as to determine the longevity of the Biodolomer®Ocean nets. Read more here about this remarkable collaboration.

A large-scale production run has been scheduled for mid-2024 and further pilots of Biodolomer®Ocean nets have also been secured. The most ambitious of these is a collaboration with I&J, South Africa’s leading fishing company, who have agreed to add Biodolomer®Ocean nets to the belly of their trawl nets – the area most exposed to damage and loss. Several other pilots are also in the initial phases, with expressions of interest secured from Canadian-based Cascadia Seaweed and from Coral Gardeners and Oceans Alive Trust for seaweed farming and coral restoration activities, respectively, in Kenya. These two pilots will be accompanied by research on the socio-economic impacts of biodegradable nets on Kenyan communities where the pilots are taking place.

Catchgreen also attended several critical events recently to present the results of the pilots, including the Third Session of the INC Plastic Treaty Negotiations in Nairobi as well as the PROBLUE pre-event “Lost at Sea: Combating Abandoned, Lost, and otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear”. The project is also actively participating in marine fisheries and plastic waste policy development, both in South Africa and internationally, to inform norms and standards on plastic pollution in marine contexts.

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