Can we keep the ocean free from marine litter?

It is estimated that there are far more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean, and that every year 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes are added to this figure.

Marine litter includes all the residue produced in land, that deliberately or unintentionally ends up in the sea.

According to the European Commission, almost half of the marine litter corresponds to single use plastics; a third of the residues come from fishing, like abandoned nets; and around 20% are other non-plastic residues. Thus, marine litter became not only a global concern but a threat for sea life, for the economy, for the climate and for human health.

What seems to be the solution, then? There are two parts in this equation. First, there is the need to avoid more plastic and litter being thrown into the oceans; secondly, we need to clean marine litter – a task that isn’t always easy, given the nature of the debris.

It is by trying to clean marine litter and giving it a new life that initiatives and foundations like Waste Free Oceans (WFO) were born.

A new life for marine litter

WFO is an initiative with two fronts. On one hand, WFO collaborates with fishermen around the world to collect marine litter where possible. On the other hand, it collaborates with the recycling industry to transform this litter into other products like packaging.

WFO’s solution to collect marine litter consists of a simple yet innovative floating device, similar to a trawl net that is attached to small fishing boats and collects floating debris. This solution does not affect fishes or destroy the bottom of the oceans. Besides, the fishermen that collaborate with WFO can collect, on each journey, from 2 to 8 tonnes of marine litter, like plastic.

Floating device that collects marine litter

One of the ways of fishing for plastic waste is to use a surface trawl attached to fishing boats.

After the collection, WFO distributes the debris by their partner companies, that will recycle and transform this marine litter into raw material. This raw material will then be used to produce pretty much everything, from clothes to packaging.

Packaging Ecodesign

In Portugal and Poland, Pingo Doce and Biedronka have introduced under their private brands Ultra Pro and Kraft a new washing up liquid that pays tribute to the oceans and rivers.

Produced by the Spanish manufacturer Persán in the outskirts of the Andalusia region, this bottle is 100% recycled, composed by 89% post-consumer plastic and 11% marine litter collected by WFO. Besides, it is 100% recyclable.

Kraft and Ultra Pro packaging, made from post-consumer plastic and marine litter.

This is only one of the many environmental initiatives included in Jerónimo Martins’ ecodesign project, which main goal is to avoid the usage of unnecessary paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and other raw materials.