Image for From pollution-munching fungi to tech that tags fishing nets: five plastic-busting projects

From pollution-munching fungi to tech that tags fishing nets: five plastic-busting projects

The winners of a £1m grant fund that is designed to tackle plastic pollution have been revealed

The winners of a £1m grant fund that is designed to tackle plastic pollution have been revealed

From marine scientists to charities, the winners of the Plan Plastic, The Million Pound Challenge grant fund have been announced. The fund – from Waitrose, which is working in partnership with environmental charity Hubbub – will be allocated over one year to projects that can demonstrate they reduce plastic pollution.

The cash was raised from the sale of 5p plastic carrier bags, before the grocer removed them and replaced loose fruit and vegetable bags with compostable versions.

Five winners were selected from 150 applicants and each will be given a share of £1m: funding between £150,000 and £300,000. The winners are:

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Blue Marine Foundation: Safegear
Plymouth, Devon

Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) has developed a project called Safegear that aims to stop ghost fishing gear – fishing nets that have been left or lost in the ocean – at source. It does so by attaching beacons to buoys to make fishing gear visible. Safegear allows fishing vessels to inexpensively monitor their gear at sea, receive alerts if the gear starts to move, and contact vessels in the area. If gear is lost due to towing or bad weather, the beacon allows the fishing vessel to track the gear and recover it.

Ghost fishing gear, photographed by Carmelo Isgró

Charles Clover, executive director of BLUE, said: “Plymouth provides an excellent test bed for innovation in fisheries and conservation. Its dynamic fishing fleet offers a unique opportunity for new technology to be tested on all classes of vessels in search of comprehensive solutions.

“Ghost gear is the most sinister of all plastic pollution and it ruthlessly continues to capture and kill after it is lost in an indiscriminate way. Fishermen who have the misfortune of having their gear towed away and lost by other marine users face substantial financial losses to replace the gear and lost fishing time while new gear is sourced and taken back to sea, Safegear offers us a win-win solution for fishermen and the environment.”

A Plymouth-based fisherman holding a piece of Safegear equipment

Onion Collective CIC and Biohm: Community Bio-Recycling
Watchet, Somerset

Community organisation Onion Collective and Biohm, a body that pioneers nature-based innovation in construction, are working together to create a new plastic biorecycling facility in Somerset. It will use mycelium, a vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacteria, to break down synthetic plastic waste and turn it into new products – for environmental, social and economic benefit. This process will entirely eliminate petrochemical plastic, they say, while demonstrating a new way of doing business.

Image: Phoenix Han

Women’s Environmental Network (WEN): Environmenstrual Plastic-Free Periods  

The ‘environmenstrual’ campaign Plastic-Free Periods aims to bring about a UK revolution in education about health-conscious, environmentally-friendly menstrual products. This is a collaborative project between Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) and City to Sea, a not-for-profit organisation that tries to prevent plastic pollution at source. Plastic-Free Periods aims to bring about widespread behaviour change, say the team.

Image: Josefin

Plymouth Marine Laboratory: Mussel Power
Plymouth, Devon

Removing Marine Microplastics with Mussel Power wants to develop an ecological solution to microplastic pollution. It involves beds or rafts of mussels being deployed in estuaries and coastal sites to filter out microplastics from the water. The project will help determine whether these ‘bioreefs’ will help combat plastic waste.

Image: Peter Secan

Youth Hostel Association: Message in a Bottle

A “simple but high-impact project” by the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) will see water bottle refill stations installed in 60 major youth hostels across England and Wales, eradicating the use of single-use plastic bottles from packed lunches, cafes, bars and vending machines.

Image: Houston Max

For more information about the fund and winners, click here

Featured image: Cristian Palmer