Biodegradable plastics for marine applications

Our research aims to reduce plastic litter and associated problems (ghost fishing, macro and microplastic) caused by the fishery and aquaculture industries. The goal is that traditional plastics in these sectors can be replaced with new biodegradable materials.

Read more about Dsolve here

Lost fishing gears and ghost-fishing in Latvian waters

A new study has been recently published in Marine Policy on estimation of amounts of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) in Gulf of Riga and coastal areas of Latvia in collaboration between UiT The Arctic University of Norway and Latvian Maritime Academy of Riga Technical University.

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Lost fishing gears and ghost-fishing in Latvian waters

A new study has been recently published in Marine Policy on estimation of amounts of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) in Gulf of Riga and coastal areas of Latvia in collaboration between UiT The Arctic University of Norway and Latvian Maritime Academy of Riga Technical University.

Read more
June 27th, 2024 | Summer intern

Summer internship in NORSUS

Nora Løvdal Gamnes – master student at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU – is a summer intern in Dsolve research partner NORSUS. In this article she talks about her experiences as a summer intern and also her master's thesis and the collaboration with Dsolve.

June 24th, 2024 | Networking

Circumpolar snow crab fisheries

First workshop of the project “Networking for increasing sustainability in snow crab fisheries in the Arctic” in St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada


New biodegradable materials is part of a comprehensive solution to the plastic problem in the seafood industries.


Do you have any questions? Here you'll find answers to our most frequently asked questions

Skulle du ikke finne svar på det du lurte på her i vår FAQ kan du ta kontakt med hilde@salt.nu.

Biodegradable plastic has similar properties as conventional plastic (like nylon and polyethylene), but when left in the environment these new materials dissolve and degrade into harmless minerals, water, and CO2 thanks to microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. In Dsolve we aim to develop plastic materials that are fully degradable in the ocean within months, up to a few years, depending on temperature.

Biodegradable plastic can be made both from natural resources such as vegetable oils and starches (bioplastics), and petroleum-based materials. In other words, not all biodegradable plastics are bioplastics.

Read more here.

There are two main reasons. First, the negative effects caused by lost, abandoned, or discarded fishing gear and aquaculture equipment are well known, as they end up as plastic litter on our beaches and on the seabed. Conventional plastics break down slowly in the marine environment, to macro- micro- and nanoplastics. It may take centuries before they are completely removed from nature.

Second, we want to reduce what is known as ghost fishing, which is unintended capture of fish and other species from lost, abandoned, or discarded fishing gear.

This is why fishing gear and aquaculture equipment should be made from biodegradable plastics in the future.

Biodegradable materials, in themselves, represent no guarantee for reduced plastic littering. However, unlike the non-biodegradable plastics we use today, these new materials dissolve into harmless minerals, water, and CO2 in the marine environment over time. In simpler terms, lost fishing gear won’t stick around in the marine environment for extended periods. Over time this means that less plastic waste will be piling up in the sea. Additionally, these faster-dissolving materials also reduce the harmful effects of ghost fishing caused by lost gear.

Alternative materials such as natural fibers has been tested for specific types of fishing gear, including substitutes for plastic-based components in trawls and in Danish seine nets. Dsolve partner Hermes AS has contributed with testing of equipment made of natural fibers. Both usability and durability are factors of significant importance in assessing the suitability of these materials. As of today, viable alternatives to synthetic fibers have not been identified, but research on natural materials is ongoing.

The degradation rate of biodegradable materials is strongly influenced by both the chemical composition of the material and environmental factors such as temperature, oxygen levels, exposure to UV radiation, and the concentration of microorganisms. SFI Dsolve is currently conducting tests on biodegradable equipment under various conditions and temperatures, both in Norway and internationally. Studies indicate that these new biodegradable plastic materials dissolve within 3-5 years in marine environments. This implies that, if used in fishing equipment (e.g., fishing nets), ghost fishing can be significantly reduced. The challenge lies in maintaining the mechanical properties for a desired time frame, while, in the event of equipment loss, achieving a rapid degradation rate.

Biodegradable plastic dissolve and degrade into harmless minerals, water, and CO2. During the biodegradation process, the material breaks down into microplastic just like conventional plastic, but only for a short time. Our studies indicate that biodegradable plastic materials are fully degraded into within 3-5 years in marine environments.

Dsolve is a public center for research-based innovation (SFI) funded by the Norwegian Research Council. Read more about SFI here. The center receives a minimum of 50% of its funding from user partners, and the intellectual property of the various participating companies is managed through a consortium agreement.

In an SFI, there are also requirements for the publication of relevant research findings, with the goal of disseminating as much knowledge as possible. In cases where patented products or solutions/ideas are used, the companies that own these have the right to impose clear restrictions on what can be disclosed in publications, student assignments, or news articles. Like other similar public centers, Dsolve also has a data management plan.

For the Dsolve project, there are no specific challenges related to food safety. The use of recycled plastic in contact with food is regulated by the EU through Regulation (EU) 2022/1616, Plastic Recycling. Here, the recycling process must be tested through a "challenge test" to demonstrate that the recycling process decontaminates the plastic in a way that meets the requirements of the EFSA.…

Yes, biodegradable materials can be recycled just like conventional plastic. However, biodegradable materials are not being recycled for now due to limitations in our recycling systems and technologies. To be recycled, the various plastic materials need to be separated, just as aluminum is separated from copper and iron before recycling. As the amount of bioplastics is very small, it is not economically feasible to invest in equipment to separate this fraction.

However, if large quantities of bioplastics are used in the fishing sector in the future, sorting and recycling can be organized more effectively. At the same time, biodegradable plastic is intended to degrade more easily than conventional plastic. For some of the biodegradable plastic materials being tested in the Dsolve, tests will be conducted to determine whether they are suitable for material recycling or not. Until now, it has not been desirable to mix biodegradable plastic with other plastics that can be recycled, as it has been shown to reduce the quality of the recycled product. However, research is continued to determine if it is possible to achieve this.

An economic incentive would entail that, in one way or another, it should be advantageous to use biodegradable plastic in fishing gear over other materials. For example, that the new gear becomes cheaper than current gear, or that they have significantly better properties, such as improved fishing performance or increased strength. Currently, biodegradable plastic in fishing gear does not meet these criteria. Alternatively, a situation must arise where consumers are willing to pay more for fish caught with biodegradable fishing gear, or an incentive system must be established to ensure this change in value for fishermen. The latter involves either taxing non-biodegradable plastics, subsidizing biodegradable plastics, or imposing waste management requirements on current plastics that promote the use of biodegradable plastics. Such regulations are often contingent on political decisions, and it is difficult to assess the likelihood of such policies. However, it should be noted that such policies are not unheard of, so the likelihood is not zero. Furthermore, there is significant ongoing research in biodegradable plastics, so even without such policies, the likelihood of incentives exists.