Isabel Sousa Pinto
CONSIGLIO NAZIONALE DELLE RICERCHE , Italy
MAELSTROM: New solutions for the recovery of marine plastics and litter
The global marine plastic litter challenge comprises an estimated stock of 83 million tonnes of plastic waste accumulated in oceans. The recovery of plastic materials already in the ocean is an arduous and costly task. This is why innovations are urgently needed. The EU-funded MAELSTROM project is bringing together key stakeholders – from research centres and recycling companies to marine scientists and robotic experts – to leverage the integration of complementary technologies for the sustainable removal of marine litter in different European coastal ecosystems. The project will design, manufacture and integrate scalable, replicable and automated technologies, co-powered with renewable energy and second-generation fuel, to identify, remove, sort and recycle all types of collected marine litter into valuable raw materials. MAELSTROM strives to provide answers and diversified solutions to the complex question to the removal and sustainable treatment of marine litter legacy. MAELSTROM leverages on the integration of complementary technologies for marine litter removal in different European coastal ecosystems, compounded with full-fledged circular economy and societal oriented solutions. In particular, the project (i) sets out a reliable multidisciplinary and scientifically sound approach for the assessment of marine debris distribution and impact on marine life in highly valuable ecosystems and protected areas; (ii) designs and manufactures scalable, replicable and automated technologies, co-powered with renewable energy and second generation fuel, to identify, remove and sort marine litter; (iii) evaluates over time the effectiveness of marine litter removal devices along with their impact on local ecosystems; (iv) integrates different technologies to track, sort and recycle all types of collected marine litter into valuable raw materials for future marketisation; (v) assesses the economic and societal impact of the MAELSTROM solutions providing also a comprehensive life-cycle assessment of the technologies and products; (vi) enhances social awareness about the marine litter issue and engages citizens and stakeholders in MAELSTROM activities; (vii) interplays with similar projects to maximize innovation uptake for marine litter removal within and outside the EU. MAELSTROM is formally supported by a set of key stakeholders committed to sustain its core actions and its follow up activities. The consortium is a tight knit group made of research centers and foundations of excellence in marine life, biology and sustainable energy, AI and robotics, multinational /national recycling companies with certified industrial plants, a market consultancy company, a micro-enterprise and a plastic-focussed NGO.