Sotenäs municipality in western Sweden may be small in size but it’s having a big impact in the fight against marine plastic pollution. Their Marine Recycling Centre has taken a unique, whole system’s approach to the problem. We caught up with Pia Bergenholtz, Sustainability Strategist at Sotenäs municipality to find out more.
Please could you give us some background to the Marine Recycling Centre? How did it come about?
The Marine recycling centre was a collaboration between the municipality and the local fishermen. For the governing politician the municipality a clean and healthy sea has long been a priority since it is important for both the local companies (majority is in the seafood industry), the local fishing fleet, tourism and the inhabitants of the municipality. The local fishermen and fishing gear manufacturer has voluntarily collected discarded fishing gear for over a decade to make sure it doesn’t pollute the sea. So a collaboration and investment in a facility purposed for taking in and take care of marine waste was then started in a project as a test in fall 2018, and has since grown and is now a permanent part of the work done in the municipality to help prevent plastic ending up in our oceans.
What does the centre do?
At the centre we collect and receive marine waste. Both plastic from the shores of Sotenäs, ghost gear (pots, nets etc) that is taken out of the ocean, and discarded fishing gear to prevent it from ending up in the marine environment. At the centre we dismantle, separate and sort the marine waste into different fractions in order for it to be re-used, upcycled or recycled. The centre is also a part of the municipality’s work-training program. This gives another level of value to the municipality as it creates important job opportunities as well as good environment for work training.
What is unique about the marine recycling centre in Sotenäs?
The centre is involved in different areas connected to marine waste. From the collection and sorting to an innovation project where we collaborate with companies and the research institute of Sweden to test the material and find new solutions to how the plastic can be used as a resource in new products and innovations. The centre is also involved in looking at ways to design fishing gear when produced for circularity and easier recyclability, in project looking at creating a transparent digital value-chain for tracking the flows of material from collection to product. We are also working closely with the authorities to implement the coming EPR (extended producer responsibility) for fishing gear that is set out to be implemented throughout Europe in 2025. And also as mentioned with the social dimension of work training. This in combination we do not believe is done anywhere else.
Which aspect of the centre do you personally find most important or exciting?
To look at problem as a system and work in all directions is something we find very exciting. To be able to look at the whole value-chain and affect it.
What does the centre hope to accomplish in the years going forward?
We hope to grow and become a leading example for how this global issue can be tackled on a local level. We wish to spread what we’ve learnt to other parts of Europe and further afield to help create a more sustainable approach to this issue and to exchange our knowledge with others working with this problem.
We congratulate Sotenäs municipality on their outstanding work thus far. We hope that their example may inspire and inform local strategies against marine pollution the world over.
Many thanks to Pia Bergenholtz for her time and valuable insights into the workings of the Sotenäs Marine Recycling Centre.