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  /  Actions   /  Action D.1   /  Circular innovation that protects the sea and the economy of the sector. The Life MUSCLES seminar at the AquaFarm International Fair.

Circular innovation that protects the sea and the economy of the sector. The Life MUSCLES seminar at the AquaFarm International Fair.



Recycling of socks used for mussel farming
and experimentation with biodegradable and compostable ones.


Circular innovation that protects the sea and the economy of the sector:
for mussel farmers a saving of 50% on the purchase of nets


The Life MUSCLES seminar at the International Conference on Aquaculture,
algoculture and fishing industry, AquaFarm.


HERE the official project video | HERE the photos


Circular economy with sea view, thanks to a recycling plant that reduces plastic by giving new life for socks used for mussel farming. It is mounted on a container, therefore available to mussel farmers who will be able to experiment with it near their farms and recycle up to 300 kg of socks (or nets) per day. And then socks in biodegradable and compostable biopolymer, so that these fundamental tools for mussel farming can have less impact on the marine ecosystem in the event of dispersion. The two actions of the European project Life Muscles, were at the center of the seminar for mussel farmers, organized by AMA Mediterranean Aquaculture Association And Legambiente, which was held during the AquaFarm Fair in Pordenone.


Every year in Italy about 80,000 tons of mussels are produced and at least they are used to breed them 1,300 tons of tubular polypropylene nets, which correspond to 20 grams per linear meter. To produce 1 kg of mussels, 1 meter of net is used, which means that in a year they unroll 65,000 km of networks, practically 1.6 times around the world. Polypropylene, like other polymeric materials used in everyday life and also for aquaculture, if dispersed in the environment takes hundreds of years to mineralize. And the consequences of microplastics on aquatic organisms, of macroplastics ingested by fish or of ghost nets are now known. More effective collection, recycling and the introduction of biodegradable and compostable materials can be a solution.


During the life cycle of the mussel, from seed to commercial size, the nets are replaced at least twice in a year and, since the operation is carried out at sea, some of them may escape recovery or be lost accidentally, also due to extreme weather events which are increasingly frequent.


To address this problem, the LIFE Muscles team has created the mobile recycling plant which will be positioned in the pilot area of the North of the Gargano, in Cagnano Varano, in the province of Foggia, but will then be available to farms throughout Italy who want to significantly reduce the release of new polypropylene into the environment, but also enjoy significant savings on purchase costs.
In fact, the cost of retinas today is around 4 cents per metre, with a total expense for the sector reaching 2.6 million euros per year.


“We have calculated a saving of around 50% for mussel farmers, without considering the cost of disposal which is around 20 cents per kilo”. Loris Pietrelli he is the scientific director of the project for Legambiente and in his speech at the Pordenone seminar, he underlined that "it is often difficult to achieve economic sustainability together with environmental and social sustainability, but in this case we believe it is possible, building the necessary awareness to change the way we act".


In addition to recycling activities, during the event, there was also talk of the experimentation that is underway in the Gulf of La Spezia, where the Associated Mussel Farmers Cooperative, is breeding his muscles (that's what mussels are called in Liguria) in biodegradable and compostable biopolymer socks, which contribute to mitigating the ecological risk in the event of accidental dispersion.


Reducing the spread of plastics in the sea, saving on the costs of purchasing nets for mussel farming, collaborating with other producers, port authorities, administrators and associations to create a virtuous system and make the work of mussel farmers more sustainable: these are some of the opportunities shared with the participants of the AquaFarm seminar and have already aroused interest and requests for experimentation.


The project, financed by LIFE program of the European Commission, completes the two main actions with monitoring, community awareness activities and concrete involvement activities, fundamental for raising awareness of this particular environmental emergency.


The next informative seminars dedicated to mussel farmers they will be held in Liguria, Sardinia, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Puglia, Marche and Veneto.


The stages of the mobile recycling plant after Cagnano Varano there will be La Spezia (for the treatment of biopolymer socks), Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Croatia and Slovenia.


Life MUSCLES (Life MUssel Sustainable production (re)cyCLES) it is coordinated by Legambiente and has among its partners: University of Bologna; La Sapienza University of Rome (Department of Chemistry); University of Siena; Mediterranean Aquaculture Association (AMA); Novamont; Roma Plastic; Società Agricola Itica Del Giudice (Gargano); Associated Mussel Farmers Cooperative (La Spezia).


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