Macroom group joins EU fight on plastic

An organisation based in mid-Cork has been selected to work with an EU initiative to turn the tide on marine litter.

Macroom E, an enterprise initiative focusing start-up and growing business, has been tasked with locating and encouraging businesses to convert recycled material into saleable products.

It has been asked, along with bodies in England, Norway and Greenland, to help in the battle to tackle discarded plastics and other potentially reusable products, such as trawler nets, dumped in our oceans on a near daily basis.

Cork coastlines are among those effected by an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic litter entering the seas annually.

Environmental groups estimate over 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds are killed each year as a result of consuming discarded plastic, or getting entangled in it. Furthermore, it also creates eyesores when washed up on beaches.

The ‘Circular Ocean’ project, being led by the Environmental Research Institute of the North Highland College in Scotland, aims to turn waste plastic from the sea into reusable resources.

Already marine litter has been recycled to manufacture products including trainers, rucksacks, socks, jackets, skateboards, carpet tiles and sunglasses.

Macroom E has been chosen as the only Irish partner in the project due to its track record in providing free advice to businesses on how to recycle and reuse waste for product innovation through a SMILE Exchange programme — funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Cork city and county councils and local enterprise offices.

It has been asked to play its part in the EU’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme to reduce marine litter by incentivising its removal and enable communities and entrepreneurs across the region to utilise plastic waste as a potential resource.

Michelle Green of Macroom E said: “We are delighted to be a part of this innovative project which we hope will help in combating the global environmental problem of marine plastic waste while, at the same time, developing enterprise opportunities in Ireland by turning this perceived waste into a resource.”

Other partners include England’s Centre for Sustainable Design, Greenland’s Arctic Technology Centre and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The project aims to create an online, open-access network allowing anyone to share and access practical and innovative ideas on how to reuse plastic.

It is being set up to encourage the development of enterprises based on the reuse and upcycling of discarded fishing nets and ropes which currently represents 10% of marine litter.

Scottish project leader Dr Neil James said virtually all plastic ever produced “is still with us today, with more entering the seas each year to the detriment of fish, birds, turtles and marine mammals”.

“If we utilise this so-called waste material for a new purpose we reduce the amount of new plastic created, reduce marine pollution, and encourage new green enterprises. Our aim in Circular Ocean is to facilitate this in the northern Europe and Arctic region,” he said.


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