How can we reduce the critical amount of plastic waste in fish farming? World leading aquaculture company Grieg Seafood has shown the way forward by pioneering sustainable and eco-friendly solutions. A great example is artificial seaweed made from 100 percent recyclable and drinking water approved PVC.
Fish farming cages is a common sight in fjords and along the long Norwegian coast line. Salmon export is an important business area in Norway. Great taste and quality is critical, of course, but the aquaculture industry is also ridden with environmental challenges concerning plastic waste and lice treatment.
Various estimates for plastic waste from marine businesses are devastating. Some figures, says 29,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually (SINTEF) comes from fish farming, other estimates are calculating that 80 percent of all plastic waste in northern waters stems from the aquaculture industry.
– The enormous amounts of plastic waste must be thoroughly addressed by all stakeholders in the industry. They have to make a thorough assessment of how they are utilising plastic products in their business, Bellona senior consultant Kari Torp told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK in 2018.
Norway’s Grieg Seafood and The Bellona Foundation have since started working together on creating better and more sustainable solutions to cut down the amounts of plastic waste. One of those solutions is a 100 percent recyclable, long life and drinking water approved artificial seaweed made out of PVC.
Grieg Seafood is a world leading salmon farming company, with aquaculture facilities from the North Sea waters on the southwest coast and all the way up to the polar areas of Finnmark way up north. In this wild and rugged landscape of steep mountains, chilly fjords and rough weather, the conditions are ideal for raising quality salmon. Grieg Seafood runs several fish farming facilities in this region, among them the world’s northernmost fish farm right outside the tourist magnet Cape North. The salmon export from these Grieg Seafood installations amounts to about 100 million euros a year.
The artificial seaweed is part of the Clean Fish System. Large clusters of artificial seaweed are placed inside the cages in order to create an authentic and protective habitat for the small clean fish, which has the sole task of keeping the salmon free of lice. The old solutions for artificial seaweed created a lot of plastic waste, and needed to be replaced frequently. The new solution from Norwegian aquaculture company, Brisk Safety and membrane innovation powerhouse, Protan is made of long-life, extremely strong PVC material which prolongs the durability substantially. PVC is a thermoplastic material, and thus it will not create microplastic fragments.
To make it even better, the artificial seaweed can be recycled at the end of its lifetime, handled through a looped recycling system.
The customer simply returns the used artificial seaweed to us. Protan have been a pioneer of circular economy even before the term was coined and an experienced manufacturer of PVC products, which are 100 percent recyclable. A typical recycling process for artificial seaweed would be to grind it and reuse it in some of our other products, such as roofing materials. We are talking about a lifetime of possibly more than 60 years.
The material itself is not the only sustainability feature. Traditional environmental hazards like rope and lead have been replaced by innovative solutions and engineering. In the 60 cages that belongs to Grieg Seafood’s Finnmark business would normally require about 33,000 metres of rope or more. In order to keep the seaweed in place when weather gets stormy, the traditional lead sinkers doing this job have been replaced with a Norwegian magmatic rock – larvikitt. This solution alone keeps 21 tonnes of lead materials out of these fragile waters.
Product manager Vidar Aamo Nikolaisen in Grieg Seafood has sustainability concerns high up on his list of priorities. Money isn’t everything.
– It’s a win for us if we can do something good for the environment.
Others major business in the aquaculture industry is following Grieg Seafood’s lead. Norway Royal Salmon is another company that has started to implement the artificial seaweed in their cages as part of their clean fish system.
The end customer is gradually being more concerned about the origins of the products they buy in the supermarket and under which conditions the salmon have been raised. Product manager Nikolaisen at Grieg Seafood is convinced this will be another important factor for the fish farming industry in order to work in a more efficient and eco-friendly way.
The artificial seaweed made of Protan PVC membrane is probably just a forerunner among products designed to help aquaculture businesses move towards a more sustainable future.
The salmon louse is a huge problem for the aquaculture industry. Fighting lice has often required chemicals and other environmental hazards. With a new innovative sea lice skirt solution, Grieg Seafood has come much closer to the dream scenario of eco-friendly delousing.