Macroom project seeking ideas to clean up our oceans
Millions of tonnes of fishing-related waste dumped in our oceans annually
While Macroom may not be the first place you may think of when it comes to maritime matters, an innovative project based in the town is playing a key role in helping to clean up Northern Europe's oceans.
Macroom E, a subsidiary of Cork County Council, is a partner in the pan-European 'Circular Ocean' project that aims to recycle millions of tonnes of waste materials harvested from the sea.
Macroom E plays a pivotal role in Circular Ocean by contributing to research and more specifically disseminating the project's findings to scientists, politicians and entrepreneurs.
The project was launched in 2015 in Greenland following the release of an EU report that highlighted the scale of the man-made waste problem that is blighting the seas across northern Europe and up into Arctic Circle.
It has been estimated that more than 8million tonnes of litter ends up in the seas around northern Europe each year. Up to 30 per cent of that remains floating on the surface or is washed ashore, with the remaining 70 per cent sinking to the seabed.
The report outlined how, unless drastic measures were urgently taken, so-called 'plastic waste' some of which can take thousands of years to fully break down, will continue to accumulate, with research suggesting there could be as much as 155million tonnes of it in our seas by the year 2025.
Furthermore, this waste plastic, discarded fishing nets and ropes will continue to entangle and be consumed by marine life, which has significant implications for the overall health of marine ecosystems and the food web. In addition to causing incalculable damage to the environment and marine wildlife, the economic damage runs to billions of Euro annually.
As an island nation, this is particularly pertinent to Ireland, with ocean pollution having a seriously detrimental impact on our fishing and tourism industries and related businesses.
With this in mind Macroom E, through the Circular Oceans project, is offering investors and students the opportunity to quite literally make money out of old rope (and plastics) through a competition aimed at reusing sea-related waste.
Under the 'Global Innovation' competition, they aim to generate radical, inspiring and fresh ideas for the re-use and recycling of fishing-related waste in the Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) region.
"We hope the competition will act as a catalyst to motivate and empower communities across Ireland to consider sustainable business opportunities using waste plastics and fishing gear," said Macroom E's Michelle Green, who is also the project manager for Circular Oceans.
She said the project would like to hear from individuals and/or multi-disciplinary teams of entrepreneurs, inventors, designers and students who would like to tackle marine plastics with "ideas, solutions and product concepts".
"Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the challenge will seek to attract new ideas that enable a circular value chain through innovative material processing, technology, local machinery, systems, business models or completely different solutions that enable the collection, reusing and recycling of discarded and used material," said Ms Green.
The closing date for submissions has been set for Friday, June 1.
Full competition details and entry guidelines are available on the dedicated Circular Ocean website at www.circularocean.eu.