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Sustainable soap factory signs an agreement with fishermen to catch the plastic that pollute the sea and reuse it for new packaging. A success in France and Belgium, the marine waste fishing project could be exported to Denmark.

The extent of plastic waste in the ocean is enormous - about 18,000 pieces of plastic is floating around on every square kilometre. As a result of the consumption of this plastic waste floating in the sea, one million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die every year.

It is estimated that the North Sea gets approximately 20,000 tons of waste each year. What is not washed ashore degrades over time to microscopic particles. Scientists fear these particles form an even greater environmental problem, because they enter the food chain and ultimately end up on our dinner tables through the fish we eat.

Catching plastic

Ecover, the Belgian manufacturer of sustainable cleaning products, now tackles this environmental catastrophe head-on. The company signs a partnership with fishermen and the recycling industry. Fishing boats from Belgium and France have now been equipped with special nets catching plastic in particularly polluted sea areas. Thus the partnership results in a win-win situation: a cleaner ocean and a raised awareness and change in attitude among fishermen and their communities.

Often the waste in the seas is thinly spread over large areas. Much of the visible waste in the sea however is piled-up in certain places, for example close to the major shipping routes. Directing fishermen to these hotspots a lot of waste can be fished in a short period of time. As an example: for the Ecover-project eight fishing boats in France fished for waste at sea for 60 days collecting 1-2 tons per trip.

Marine waste becomes soap bottles

Soap manufacturer Ecover buys the plastic, cleans it and produces recycled bottles for the company's eco-friendly dishwashing liquid. The goal for now is use 1 ton of plastic waste from the sea this year and increase the amount to 3 tons in 2015. Ecover’s CEO Philip Malmberg is definitely won over to extend the network of fishermen, recycling facilities and manufacturers to really get the project going.

Denmark to joint project

The organization Waste Free Oceans hopes that the Danish authorities and fishermen will take part in the Ecover-project, and – in slow fishing periods - use the fishing fleets’ capabilities to clean the sea. Today, Danish ports already have a passive waste collection system. Fishermen drop off plastic and other waste that is caught in the nets - without paying tax on the waste. The Danish fishing ports accepting the waste must in turn pay taxes, and therefore increased opportunities for sorting and recycling the waste could be interesting for these ports.

In addition, the Danish west coast municipalities annually collect a large amount of plastic waste that washes up on the beaches. The Danish branch of Local Authorities International Environmental Organisation, Kimo gathers an average of 900-1,000 tons along the west coast and would be interested in Ecover's new project, also for Denmark. And also the Danish Fishermen's Association will examine any proposal seriously.

Marine waste bottles sold in the UK

Headquartered in Belgium, Ecover has for many years been a pioneer in manufacturing environmentally friendly household and professional cleaning products. Ecover's product have relatively small market shares in Denmark. In other countries such as Great Britain, Ecover’s specific dishwashing liquid in special bottles from recycled sea plastic initially will be available for purchase.