RS Standards extends its Strategic Services to Fishing Gear Plastics

Dave Garforth, Consultant at RS Standards unravels the challenges of fishing gear plastic.

In 2018, the EU introduced the Single-Use Plastic (SUP) Directive 2019, (904) ‘on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment’ to give its full title.

The main aim of the SUP Directive is the reduction of the impact of certain Plastic Products on the Environment, particularly Marine Litter. Abandoned Fishing Gear is a feature of Marine Litter and although not a Single-Use Plastic, due to its’ preponderance in European Beach Survey Data (circa. 30% in North Atlantic), is included as one of the so called problem plastics within the SUP Directive.

The Directive calls for Extended Producer Responsibly (EPR) for Fishing Gear to be introduced by the beginning of 2022. EPR is a mechanism by which the Producer or Importer of Materials into the EU Market is responsible for the cost of a compliant end of life solution which should involve some form of recovery of value.

According to the EU Commission, only 1.5% of Fishing Gear is recycled. Plastics provides much longer durability and efficiency of fishing operations than traditional fibres- important considerations in a green Economy. However, like all Plastic, it is persistent and can negatively impact the natural environment.

Gears are also lost at Sea and can be abandoned deliberately. However, it is worth noting that a huge majority of fishermen are engaged in Fishing for Litter Schemes and actively recover lost Gears (regardless of origin) and return them to Shore. Recognition should be given for this activity.

Fishing Gear is expensive, and Fishermen do not want to deliberately abandon it, nor do they want it abandoned in the marine environment. Ghost Fishing and the degradation of Marine Habitat does not serve Fishermen’s’ interests. Clean Seas and pristine Habitats mean healthy Fish Stocks and quality Fish. A solution is desirable by all and whilst EPR Schemes are introduced in other Sectors (Plastic Bottle Return Schemes, WEEE Schemes), Fishing Gears cover a wide variety of types of plastics, applications and truly diverse use patterns and life histories.

Contamination of Gears (salt, growth), cost of dismantling , cleaning, transport costs and significantly, the low price of Virgin Plastic Polymers means an economic return through Recycling is challenging and apart from some of the more sought after Plastics such as Nylon, the option is mainly one of locating the least cost legal disposal method.

EPR Schemes should, by their definition, serve to reduce Plastic Littering and create viable Markets for secondary Products, which is challenging in this instance and Policy is required and designed to incentivise and coordinate full chain solutions.

This requires sound Policy and a range of supports in order to attract investment and innovation. For example the EU estimates the annual cost of cleaning up EU Coasts (of all Litter) is €630 Million alone and to this a further cost of €60 Million on the Fishing Industry itself.

RS Standards is a strategic Advisor to the Responsible Plastic Management Program with expert knowledge in the Seafood supply, catching and Aquaculture Sectors. If you are interested in understanding the impact of the SUP Directive on your operations, please contact us today.

Dave Garforth

RS Standards Consultant