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Maritime Forum

Moving forward on EU measures for proper waste management of fishing gear

The Commission has adopted a number of proposals for appropriate collection and treatment of fishing gear and fragments of fishing gear once it is damaged beyond repair. Based on these proposals, Council and Parliament are close to signing them into...


On 26 February 2019 DG MARE organized an informal discussion with Brussels-based plastic producers to answer questions about upcoming legislation in order to understand their experience on challenges, solutions and best practices on recycling of fishing gears (including different components) and listen to their views and suggestions on the move towards circular use of end of life fishing gear. Representatives from the fishing sector – fisheries advisory councils as well as WWF representative were present

MARE presented the main EU actions aiming to address the marine litter problem, including the end of life fishing gear. The compromise text of The single use plastics directive, that is expected to be adopted by end of March 2019 indicates

Without prejudice to technical measures laid down in Council Regulation (EC) No 850/98 the Commission shall request the European standardisation organisations to develop harmonised standards relating to the circular design of fishing gear to encourage preparation for re-use and facilitate recyclability at end of life.

The standard for the fishing gear may be used for the fee modulation under EPR schemes, to define criteria/characteristics that enable recycling of fishing gear. It is still a question how prescriptive the criteria could be defined, but it could be possible to define general criteria for the recyclability of different kinds of fishing gears, including looking at elements that hamper the recycling process. Normally the process of requesting and delivering a standard takes 2-3 years.

presentation from DG-MARE

The short presentations by Waste Free Oceans also included material from Eurocord who were unable to attend They explained that there are two main recyclers in Europe who together have the capacity to recycle all Europe’s fishing gear, netting and ropes Plastix in Denmark who use mechanical recycling and Aquafil in Slovenia who use a chemical method. Mechanical recycling is cheaper and more environmentally friendly Neither technology can process ghost gear and/or very dirty gear without intensive (and therefore extra expensive) additional processing steps. Process yields will be considerable in both cases

Sufficient Input of good quality input is the main challenge for both recycling plants

EU Certplast certification of the recycling plants increases traceability options and better reporting on process losses (gross input versus net output)

Plastix have been part of 2 EU projects:

  • MARELITT – Reducing the impact of marine litter in the form of derelict fishing gear in the Baltic Sea (Interreg project). Latest deliverable-report: Recycling options for derelict fishing gear
  • RETRAWL - Recycling of plastic and metal from trawl and net (EU Eco-innovation initiative funding)

Producers believe, that

  • everyone involved in the business needs to play by the same rules (also importers / distributors need to be involved, no free riders)
  • Definitions in WFD and Circular Economy Package should be the basis of EPR principles, respecting the Waste Hierarchy. There should be a single EPR scheme for entire Europe, (volumes entering the market are << 1% of the total yearly plastic consumption in Europe, only some 300 stakeholders mainly small SMEs and some 10 producers of ropes and netting).
  • logistics is more of a challenge than the material processing. Separate collection is a must with focus on quality sorting. There is need for better data on plastic waste collected by types (e.g. by types of fishing gear). The M.O.R.E. data base (in preparation) will allow plastics converters to report on the use of recycled plastics in their products
  • next to prevention and re use, recycling should be put as priority option. Landfill should be prohibited in all EU, incineration (and cement kilns etc) should be discouraged and only be an option when recycling can technically not be done at certified recycling plants. Such products should then be re-designed or pay a considerably higher EPR fee.
  • Mixed plastic products often make use of the recycled raw material in the same application difficult or impossible. Alternative market outlets often then with low added value, or non-existing. Re-design of ropes needs to be addressed in more detail, as some material mixtures are complex and can only go to incineration or landfill. Mechanical recycling of fishing gear is about 40% more environment friendly than chemical recycling. The latter is close to conventional plastic production. For some applications chemical recycling however is a better option
  • If industry is involved from the beginning, it could help e.g. with voluntary commitments
  • Some (national) legislations and also REACH are hurdles for collecting and recycling some obsolete products (a.o. in aquaculture)
  • Marking of gear : Is already mandatory according to Europeche in some countries, other ways of reporting may however prove to be more effective Other business concepts (like leasing) are being looked at

presentation from Eurocord presentation from waste free oceans

The Commission services pointed out that:

  • each Member State is responsible for setting up its own extended producer responsibility scheme. They are free to work together but in other domains this has not happened
  • the proposed Directive stipulates separate collection of fisheries waste
  • monitoring what is put on the market and what is collected are obligations under extended producer responsibility

They thanked the participants to the meeting and undertook to continue the conversation.


Colson Pascale, Iain Shepherd, Maris Stulgis, Saba Norstrom – all MARE

Silvija Aile – DG ENV

Bernard Merkx – Waste Free Oceans/Plastix Global

Anne-Cecile Dragon – WWF European Policy office

Marc Philip Buckhout – Seas at Risk, Aquaculture AC

Cecile Fouquet - Aquaculture AC

Jan Kappel – Baltic sea AC, North Western Waters AC, European Anglers Association

Siegfrid Anton Schmuck – Marine sciences and cooperation association – SCIAENA

Via webex:

Ewa Milevska and Krzysztof Stanuch – Baltic Sea AC

background from an NGO representative on the Aquaculture Advisory Council

Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear from GGGI incluiding a whole section on gear manufacturers as a stakeholder in the gear lifecycle. There are specific recommendations included in there on gear design.

a short paper on fishing gear collection and recycling for general information about the challenges and opportunities, including some case studies.