The first edition of the international workshop “Removal of Marine Litter and Circular Economy: Challenges and Opportunities” was held in Venice on June 3rd, as a partner event of the EU Green Week. It was the first joint activity of the H2020 projects MAELSTROM and InNoPlastic and a crucial moment of exchange of knowledge and updates on technologies to reduce and recycle marine waste.
It brought together representatives of other European projects dedicated to the problem of marine litter, in particular the H2020 GoJelly and CLAIM, along with companies, start-ups and NGOs that presented innovative solutions to tackle such a relevant issue area.
The workshop was set out at the Porta Nuova Tower of the historical Arsenale of Venice. Venice Lagoon Plastic Free worked side by side with CNR ISMAR, CIMA Foundation from Italy, ISDI Group from Malta, and the International Boat Show technical staff, hosting the event.
As sanitary measures were still prohibiting the attendance of higher numbers of visitors, the event took a hybrid form, being mostly online with 30 people present in the Arsenale building. In the end, we were happy to meet this challenging task with success, enabling almost flawless participation for more than 150 international participants.
The scope of this workshop was to bring together, in one place, all innovative solutions and technologies developed within these two projects.
In an opening session, we heard the speeches from the Councillor of the Environment of the City of Venice Massimiliano De Martin, Fabrizio D’Oria, director of International Boat Show, CNR ISMAR director Rosalia Santoleri, Hon. Senator Andrea Ferrazzi from the Commission for Environment, land and public works of the Chamber of the Commons of Italy, Commander Marco Nobile from the Coast Guard of Veneto region, Federico Adolfo, director of the environmental services of VERITAS (waste management authority in Venice). The Project officers of MAELSTROM and InNoPlastic projects – Leticia Landa and Ruska Kelevska from the EC contributed along with the Marine Resources Unit representative Ivan Conesa Alcolea. Finally, the project coordinators Susie Jahren (InNoPlastic) and Fantina Madricardo (MAELSTROM), presented their projects along with Davide Poletto (Director, Venice Lagoon Plastic Free) as chairperson.
They all expressed concerns over the challenge of plastic pollution in the sea and the importance of joint action for remediation strategies. At the same time, all speakers showed hope that the two projects will develop solutions applicable both locally and internationally capable to cope with the challenge they must take up.
The first part of the workshop showcased clean up solutions. InNoPlastic related partners FishFlow (The Netherlands), Nanobay (Germany) and ProBotica (Croatia) showed their technological remediation to litter in the aquatic ecosystems. In the same session, The Great Bubble Barrier from the Netherlands and Tecnalia (Spain) from MAELSTROM Consortium introduced their solution for the marine litter removal from the seabed, the water column and the sea surface.
Additional two H2020 projects, CLAIM and GoJelly, and independent innovators such as Everwave from Germany and River Cleaning with VERITAS, from the region of Veneto (Italy), presented their creative ideas for the removal of riverine and marine litter accordingly. They all apply different approaches to the same problem and contributing to enrich and expand the overall efforts in reducing plastic pollution.
The following session was devoted to the circular economy of marine litter. Mechanical recycling, pyrolysis, mechanochemistry and syngas processes were shown as possible ways to find a new life for plastics waste. While some of them produce gas and types of gasoline, others use plastics for 3D printing of different objects, including furniture. SINTEF, UPB, Arcelor Mittal and Nanobay, from InNoPlastic project, GEES Recycling and Sintol from MAELSTROM alongside IRIS from the CLAIM project representatives, all contributed within the same framework.
Lastly, both projects demonstrated technologies dedicated to social mobilisation and citizen science in the form of apps and smart portals. These tools incentivise local communities to take an active role in cleaning our environment from plastic waste. Empower from Norway (InNoPlastic) and GEES Recycling, one of the Italian partners in MAELSTROM, displayed their applications that provide the coastal population with different upcoming up to monitor, identify, and track marine litter.
All parts of the workshop included Q&A sessions to share knowledge of the proposed technologies and inspire debate among international stakeholders and the academic sector. As a result, the workshop was organised with great success, demonstrating strong dedication from both the academic and private sectors to battle the growing issue of plastic pollution in aquatic ecosystems.
At the same time, we have witnessed solutions that can offer a valuable contribution to our Organisation’s work to maintain the fragile ecosystem of the Venetian Lagoon free of plastic and other waste.
As VLPF we are proud that we have had the opportunity to bring all these technologies to an important international event in our home town, Venice. As organisers, we have already begun to work for the next edition with commitment and additional experience grown after this first event.
The next international workshop edition is scheduled for June 2022, always in the frame of the International Boat Show of Venice with an expanded agenda and enriched with a live demonstration of innovative cleanup devices in the Basin of the Arsenal of Venice!