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Ichthion: tackling marine plastic

Ichthion: tackling marine plastic

Ichthion is developing innovative engineering to prevent plastic waste from reaching waterways and to remove it when it does.

In many ways plastic is a miraculous material; it is inexpensive, versatile and durable but these properties, that make it so useful, now present considerable environmental challenges.

Globally, we produce around 300 million tonnes of plastic per year, with no signs of slowing. 

Plastic is very difficult to dispose of and difficult to keep out of rivers, from where it eventually ends up in the sea. Plastic debris, including microplastics, now contaminates habitats across all seas.

Around 40 per cent of all the plastic produced is used for packaging, which is predominantly single use.

While there are many innovative projects working on ways to reduce single use plastic and develop new materials skipping rocks there is an urgent requirement to both prevent plastic entering the seas.

The innovation

According to Ichthion’s Chief Executive Officer, Inty Grønneberg, “The problem of plastic pollution is very complex and has a lot of variables. There is a huge gap between the amount of plastic that humans produce and the amount that we are able to recycle.”

Ichthion is developing 2 technologies to tackle marine plastics: Azure, which Grønneberg describes as a system to prevent macro plastics from reaching the ocean, and Cobalt, a marine turbine able to generate electricity while also extracting micro plastics from rivers, lakes and coastal areas..

Their technology will, maintains Grønneberg, reduce the flow of plastics entering the oceans via rivers by at least 70% by 2028.

The team at Ichthion have been able to develop previous technologies to build a much more effective solution, and a technology “at least 12 times more efficient than any other in the market at the moment”, according to Grønneberg.

This has now made the company attractive for investors and allowed it to raise more funding to deploy the technology in multiple places around the world.

Tackling plastic in developing countries

Grønneberg also notes that a lack of infrastructure in developing economies is a particular issue as “these economies don’t yet have good recycling systems or good waste management systems.” He adds that “it will take many years to close this gap, which is why we decided to develop technology to stop the flow of plastic.”

In addition to developing the technology, Ichthion hopes to, “generate data to increase the chances of improving recycling systems and waste management systems in developing economies.” This data will be used to find the main pollutants from hundreds of types of plastics, which will allow us to better understand the global challenges of plastic pollution.

Plastics Research and Innovation Fund

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund £20 million Plastic Research and Innovation challenge was announced by the Chancellor during the Autumn Statement in 2017. It will fund the development of new materials, catalysing new ideas and rapid solutions across the research and innovation landscape.

Find out more about the Plastic Research and Innovation fund.