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  /  News and Events   /  At AquaFarm LIFE Muscles promotes the transition towards a circular economy model for the production of mussels.

At AquaFarm LIFE Muscles promotes the transition towards a circular economy model for the production of mussels.





The project funded by the EU Commission comes to life, with the experimentation of biodegradable and compostable polymer nets and the activation of the mobile recycling plant which will give a second life to socks for mussel farming

 At the international conference on aquaculture,
seaweed and fishing industry, all status updates
of progress of the project.

In the second year of the project, the actions of LIFE Muscles take off, which make the path towards one concrete more sustainable mussel farming.

Mussel farming is carried out using nets, commonly called stockings, made of plastic material (Polypropylene): tubular nets, in and around which the mussels adhere and grow (or muscles, as they are called in Liguria), from the seed to the adults up to upon reaching commercial size. The screens are replaced at least twice a year and, since the operation is carried out at sea, a part of them can escape recovery or accidentally get lost in the sea, also due to increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

The LIFE Muscles project, started in 2021, aims to reduce the impact of socks dispersed in the environment and focuses its actions on the pilot areas of Northern Gargano in Puglia and La Spezia in Liguria.

According to the initial data supporting LIFE Muscles, which emerged from the international experience of DeFishGear cross-border cooperation, which in 2017 was concentrated in Italy in the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, mussel farming nets constitute one of the wastes with a significant presence in seabed of our country, with an annual dispersion of between 7.88 and 9.45 tons.

In addition to the seabed, the beaches are also affected by the problem and the initiatives of beach litter clean-up organized on many Italian beaches to raise awareness among tourists, citizens and economic operators, confirm that this critical situation persists.

All the actions of the project, co-financed by the LIFE program of the European Commission and coordinated by Legambiente, were presented this afternoon during the event organized as part of AquaFarm in Pordenone, the international fair that brings together the most authoritative figures in research and innovation in aquaculture.

“As project partner and partner of the AquaFarm 2023 fair, we have allocated an informative space to present LIFE Muscles to producers, competent administrations, the most expert insiders of the shellfish farming chain and the many international guests who will populate the pavilions until tomorrow ”: are the words of Eraldo Rambaldi, director of the Mediterranean Aquaculture Association which organized the event together with Legambiente.

 The interventions, moderated by the journalist Elisa Cozzarini, described the activities that each partner is carrying out. Contributors to the discussion: Eraldo Rambaldi, Director of LOVES; Marzia Mattioli, Project coordinator OfLegambiente; Antonina DeMarco, PhD student from the University of Bologna; Loris Pietrelli, Scientific Collaboratorof the La Sapienza University of Rome and member of the Scientific Committee of Legambiente; Selene Chinaglia, Researcher by Novamont; Daniel Heat, Technical manager Rom Plastic; Paul Varrella, from the Associated Mussel Farmers Cooperative of La Spezia And Cristina Panti, Researcher of the University of Siena.

In the first year of the project, LIFE Muscles worked to frame the state of the art of Italian mussel farming, focusing attention on the two pilot areas of Liguria and Puglia and involving around 100 stakeholders between mussel farmers, coastal administrations, port authorities, research institutions and fishermen's cooperatives of 11 Italian regions.

Legambiente has elaborated information on the characteristics of the sector and the current legislation, theUniversity of Siena has started seasonal monitoring of beached socks and microplastics on the surface and in the water column, at the Ligurian and Apulian breeding plants, in order to identify the background necessary for the implementation of the project activities. L'University of Bologna has defined the guidelines on the properties and use of fishnets in farms which are now, in addition to being available to mussel farmers, are necessary to establish the parameters and performance that recycled and biopolymer stockings must guarantee.

The circular economy model introduced by LIFE Muscles is based on a recycling process low cost thanks to a system designed by Rom Plastic, Legambiente and La Sapienza University, which will be able to treat around 300 kg of socks per day, significantly reducing the emission of new polypropylene into the environment. Furthermore, the recovered polypropylene can be resold (estimated a revenue of around 600-800 euros per ton) or reused, allowing mussel farmers to save considerably on purchase costs. These project actions concern the Gargano area, where the nursery of thefish of the judge, one of the partners of LIFE Muscles representing the mussel farming sector.

In addition to recycling activities, Novamont, world leader company in the bioplastics sector and in the development of bioproducts and biochemicals of renewable origin, is developing and selecting new innovative materials, which do not accumulate in the sea in case of accidental dispersion. The mussel farmers of CMA of the gulf of La Spezia they are ready to validate the socks produced with the new Novamont materials and to test their performance. The biodegradability of these biopolymers can contribute to the mitigation of ecological risk in case of accidental dispersion, increasing the sustainability of the sector. The correct collection and management of applications at the end of their use also represents an opportunity to valorise this waste through organic recycling

“2023 will be a crucial year for the achievement of ambitious goals, which aim to reduce the impact of plastic waste in our seas and on our coasts – concludes Marzia Mattioli of Legambiente, coordinator of the project – direct contact with the world of aquaculture, shellfish farming and the sustainable fishing industry can foster circular innovation that aims to protect the sea and guarantee a valuable contribution to the entire sector”.


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