Ghost Gear investigations… weeks five and six…

So far, our project – ‘Investigating how Ghost Gear and Marine Plastic can become Precious Plastic’ has been focused on the ghost gear that can be picked up from beach cleans themselves. This has resulted in quite a range in types of material being gathered along with a range of qualities of material too. There has also been a significant amount of bio-fouling on the gear with regards to seaweed entanglement, which means that the amount of time that it takes to ‘process’ each of the batches can be quite high (and sometimes for little useful material return). However, these more community based collections allow for public empowerment – and a potential for education on the areas of Ghost Gear and marine plastics themselves, which is always useful.

However, the last two weeks we have not only been processing and recording the materials we found, we have been looking at one of the industrial sectors on our map – Newhaven Port.

By speaking directly to the fishers themselves in Newhaven and Eastbourne too (not on our map, but an area where a very influential and well respected local fisher works), we were able to understand the scale and complexity of the material that is available directly at end-of-life rather than being recovered from the sea / beach.

Quantities were huge – with materials being available in tonnes rather than kilos as we had been working with on the material recovered from the beaches. These materials were also very varied – from different types of nets to traps and fish boxes too – but many were relatively ‘pure’ in material with little or low biofouling.

There is a distinct advantage from getting end-of-life material directly from fishers to create a critical mass for re-manufacture, therefore we are considering that this may be our main focus for the ‘waste food’ for the project, with beach clean material being added in, rather than forming the main material stream. Space was a key issue for the fishers as many of them had limited access to storage, so regular pickups of material were highlighted as being important.

We were also keen to understand how nets were / are currently recycled in this area, as some of the fishers had been working with an international partner to recycle their nets. Due to the distances that the nets have to be shipped, it is currently unfeasible financially to process the material, which gives strength to this projects investigations – would more localised re-manufacture of material that is ‘lower cost’ in recycling terms make more financial sense?

As we start to quantify the ghost gear materials into type and weights we will should be able to start to look closer into the finances and establish feasibility for each type…

WEEK FIVE and SIX summary…

  • end-of-life gear shows potentially a more economically feasible route for the ‘waste as food’ for the project
  • partnering with the fishers will be key to create trust and also to ensure purity of material for reuse.
  • adding in ‘beach clean’ materials could be used as an additive to create public connection.

Ghost Gear investigations… week four…

Week four has been a pretty big one in our Discover stage of our ghost gear investigation project – as it was also the Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean Series week (and we are also volunteer Regional Reps), we employed a crowd collection tactic for our data collection.

Image result for sas autumn beach clean

With multiple beach cleans all occurring on the same weekend, with the same weather, we would be able to compare the data from each area very clearly… materials, quantities – and crowd knowledge of ghost gear itself.

So – we identified the three key SAS Beach cleans that were focussed in our areas:

  • SAS Autumn Beach Clean, Hove Lawns 28/10/17: our Sector 3, which attracted around 70 volunteers over a 2 hour beach clean
  • SAS Autumn Beach Clean, Rottingdean 29/10/17: our Sector 5, (volunteer numbers tbc)
  • SAS x Pier2Pier + Silent Disco Beach Clean 29/10/17: our Sector 4, which attracted around 110 volunteers over a 3 hour beach clean.

We created a poster that acted as an introduction to the project, and spoke to the volunteers at each Beach Clean – asking them to separate out the ghost gear that they found…

This was an experiment – many people we spoke to at the start of these beach cleans had never attended a beach clean before, so asking them to both identify, and separate lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear was a trial. After a briefing talk from us, each pair were given a small collection bag and sent out on to the beach.

The benefits of this system soon became clear. The vast majority of the volunteers filled their collection bags with ghost gear, clearly identifying them to keep them separated from the rest of the litter they had picked up. Some did come back with questions, but even those who had never done a beach clean could identify ghost gear. As our project is ultimately looking at how ghost gear can be incorporated into a new material stream to make new products, creating an empathic connection between cleaning the beach – doing a good thing – and a new item, could be critical.

It also meant that we had around 100 bags of ghost gear pieces picked up in a VERY short period of time over three separate areas that we had marked for research.

Week five will be spent looking at two of our other key areas – Sector 1 – Shoreham Port, and Sector 7 – Newhaven Port, speaking to fishers themselves and investigating the issues with collecting end-of-life nets and gear, rather than collecting it on the beaches itself.

And we will be washing, categorising and photographing the VAST quantities of ghost gear that our marvellous volunteer army collected over the Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean series weekend…

WEEK FOUR summary…

  • ‘ghost gear’ is a term that not many members of the public know.
  • however, anyone can be easily briefed on the issue – and pick up ghost gear correctly.
  • mobilising volunteer collectors was very effective for collecting large quantities of material over a short period of time.

Ghost Gear investigations… weeks two and three…

Weeks two and three on our Ghost Gear investigations have gone like an absolute flash. We have spent a huge amount of time cataloguing the HUGE amount of ghost gear that we have found so far in our field visits – which have been mostly concentrated on the more public beach areas of Brighton and Hove. These are also the beaches which are more frequently cleaned by the team at City Clean, but it is still eye opening the quantities that we have found.

There are some patterns forming though… the types of materials we are finding the most of are quite distinct. If we can determine a reprocessing system for these, we could be able to redirect a great deal of ghost gear from landfill / incineration into a new product material stream.

Watch this space…

(images by J. Arney – claire potter design)

Ghost Gear investigations… Week one…

And we’re off! At the end of week 1, we’re taking a look back at the first developments from our research project titled ‘Investigating how Ghost Gear and Marine Plastics can become Precious Plastics’.

(If you don’t know what we’re talking about, take a look at our last post!)

So what have we been up to?

The week began with some desk based research to find out a little more about Ghost Gear around the ports of Shoreham and Newhaven; both included within – and at the borders of our research area. As it turns out, there isn’t a great deal to be found. (Information that is… we are sure there is plenty of Ghost Gear!) Both port authorities provide a reasonable amount of information on environmental policies through their webpages, however very little of this links directly to our research area. So I guess we can call this our first major finding – the port authorities of Newhaven and Shoreham have very little publicly available information relating to Ghost Gear! However, this isn’t a major problem for us as we have already began discussions with Fisheries Consultant and industry expert, Harry Owen. Harry is going to be contributing to the work of the project at various stages; but first he is helping to connect us to members of the local port authorities as well as local fisherman who will be able to provide us with the information we require.

We haven’t been sat at our desks all week either! On Tuesday we planned out our observational research. This meant evaluating each section of the Greater Brighton coastline to select areas to investigate and plot any washed up Ghost Gear. The map below shows the different areas for investigation.

At each location, we continue to record information including the types of gear, quantities and contamination levels. Wherever possible, we will also be removing the Ghost Gear so that we can take samples for testing.

These observations are now well underway! On Wednesday, we headed down to a very windy Newhaven beach to conduct the first on-site part of our research stage. This is one of the less commercial stretches of coastline in the Greater Brighton area – and the effects are obvious. Not only was there huge quantities of Ghost Gear, but the amount of plastic washed up on the beach was shocking. Just goes to show that just because you may see less of it on commercial, more populated beaches (because they are regularly cleaned), marine plastic is there… and it’s a serious issue.

We were able to remove a huge amount of gear from the beach; enough to fill a (now slightly smelly) hatchback…

This was repeated on Friday, when we travelled to sector 6 on our map – Rottingdean. With a combination of beach type, from rock groyne bounded pebbles to rockpools, we were particularly interested to see where the ghost gear collected. We had not gone far when we discovered an incredible amount of Ghost Gear wrapped around, under and within the huge rock groynes.

There was too much to leave, so – after braving the inner parts of the groyne (caution – do not try this at home!) we were able to cut free and haul up massive chunks of gear. We will be back to Rottingdean next week to carry on our survey on the rockpool stretches.

WEEK ONE summary:

  • publically available data on ghost gear from Shoreham and Newhaven ports is sparse.
  • ghost gear quantity is higher on less populated beaches.
  • ghost gear variety in the area ranges from nylon nets, to a variety of rope types and rope nets.
  • sometimes there are large accumulations of gear that is hard to retrieve easily, or safely.

BIG NEWS! Claire Potter Design to lead a new Innovate UK co-funded project in marine litter…

We have big and exciting news! Starting today, Claire Potter Design will be leading a £34,000 research project concerning marine litter in the greater Brighton area. The project aims to create local value from marine plastic waste and ghost gear; fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned or otherwise discarded.

The project, titled ‘Investigating how Ghost Gear and Marine Plastics can become Precious Plastics’, is being co-funded by Innovate UK; the UK’s innovation agency, and will be supported by a number of parties including fisheries consultant Harry Owen, and Professor Martin Charter, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for the Creative Arts. Progressing in 3 stages, the studio will begin by collecting data relating to marine plastic in the area including variations, volumes and the economic impact of their loss. The second stage is to define the problem, opportunities for reuse and how fishers can be involved in the process. The final stage of the 6-month project requires the development of small scale machinery that can be used to produce 20 prototype products from the recovered materials.

The public awareness of marine plastics and their impacts on our oceans, aquatic life and coastlines has greatly increased in recent years. Reports, campaigns and increasing media coverage have helped to highlight the issues of plastic ingestion and entanglement. Currently, recovered marine plastic is brought to the land in preparation for incineration or landfill, however plastics can last for up to 600 years meaning that they could prove a valuable resource material.

If value can be created from this ‘waste’ material, the incentives to remove it from our oceans will be increased, and both gear loss and recovery could increase mitigation. The material and machinery will also provide opportunities for an increase in localised, small scale manufacture, supporting a local economy for marine waste reuse in the greater Brighton area.

Despite this being their first funded research project in this area, and as readers of The Ecospot are probably aware, the team at Claire Potter Design are not new to marine litter research. Our multi-disciplinary design studio have been working in the area of circular economy design for a number of years, alongside volunteer roles as Global Ghost Gear Initiative Design Consultants for the World Cetacean Alliance, Regional Representatives for environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage, and sitting on the British Standards Committee, MADE; Design for manufacture, assembly, disassembly and end-of-life processing.

To ensure maximum benefit to all parties involved (including the public), we are providing complete transparency during the research. This will include regular reports and updates HERE at The Ecospot as well as public consultation and open meetings. This will provide a greater understanding of the public perception of marine plastic, as well as providing a useful resource for replication in other parts of the UK.

And why are we doing this…?

  • It is estimated that marine litter costs UK local authorities over £18m a year in removal and disposal (Surfers Against Sewage, 2014)
  • It has been estimated that over 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear alone are lost or discarded in our global oceans every year (Macfadyen, et al., 2009)
  • Ghost gear causes the death of around 1 million seabirds and an estimated 100,000 mammals per year through ingestion and entanglement. (Surfers Against Sewage, 2014)

So. Let’s get going eh? Follow our updates on the Precious Marine Plastics project tab above…

(all images by claire potter design)