Abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear accounts almost for 20% of all marine waste found in the oceans according to the EU. In absolute amounts: 640 kilo tonnes of EU fishing gear is lost or discarded at sea finds its way into our oceans every year. The marine debris accumulates through the natural currents of the ocean into garbage patches, where almost 46% of waste within the great garbage patch are fishing nets.
The major issue the fishing industry is facing is the fact that once the fishing gear is damaged or lost due to accidents, they do not degrade in a marine environment! Even worse, they break down into smaller parts and find their way into the food-chain.
We are challenging ourselves to understand under which conditions and via which intermediates the degradation proceeds in which habitats. The architectural design of the polymer backbones finetunes the degradation speed in balance with the material strength, to safeguard a more sustainable future. Together with our partners in public-private research, we are designing molecular tools to degrade polymers by implementing cleavable linkages. These linkages will be cut by micro-organisms in nature, or by their catalysts: enzymes. Moreover, the development of new materials gives us the opportunity to design the fishing nets in such a way that they can be recycled when collected, but mineralize to biomass and biogas when they are lost.
Based on its library of BioBased Building Blocks (B4), B4Plastics balances out the strongest materials possible that are biodegradable. But we take it a step further: we prepare ourselves and this world to understand under which conditions and via which intermediates the degradation proceeds. The architectural design of the polymer backbones regulates the degradation speed and pathway in balance with material strength, to safeguard much more sustainable products from these new materials.
In complement with our partners in public-private research projects, we use our molecular design tools to degrade polymers by incorporating cleavable linkages. These linkages are degraded by micro-organisms in nature, a process that we mimick in our laboratories at B4Plastics. In the Glaukos project, we mobilize these tools for the development of new materials allowing a much better recyclability of fishing nets that have reached the end of their lifetime, and at the same time neutralize the harming effects of those that are lost and get worn out in our marine ecosystems.
The aim is that ghost nets, which pinch and capture sea animals around their hydrodynamic bodies, lose strength by our molecular architecture after a controlled timelapse, so that the animals can liberate themselves and return to their full capacity and retake their ecological role in seas and oceans. In that sense, our envisioned Glaukos materials contribute to supporting biodiversity in our marine and land life on the planet, via advanced ecological fishing gear and textiles.
Raw material production
Production of plastic products
Collection/ sorting and recycling
End of life