Swedish ship supplier creates the first circular economy for plastic ropes. The ship supplier, and ISSA-member, DFS has created the world’s first plastic rope that is part of a circular economy. Does this new rope, ReLine™, have the potential to change the market for plastic ropes as a whole? We’ve asked Carl Forsman, Project Manager at DFS, to give his thoughts on this groundbreaking innovation.
According to the IUCN, about 14 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year.
That makes up roughly 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. This problem has even created large “garbage patches” in the middle of our oceans.
Recent studies suggest that a very large part of these patches are made up from discarded fishing gear. Furthermore, the WWF warns that the scale of “ocean plastic pollution” might quadruple by the year 2050.
I believe we all agree that this is a major issue, and that everyone must help mitigate this problem.
For us, a ship supplier with our headquarters located in northern Europe, we saw an opportunity to make a difference within both our industry and immediate geographical area.
You see, today DFS is Sweden’s largest ship supplier and we deliver all types of goods to all types of vessels but if you go back to when we were founded (1950) our core business concerned fishing gear.
Naturally, even if a lot has changed since then, we have always had a close relationship with the local fishing industry and we still have a passion for ropes, trawls, nets and all other types of fishing gear.
As we realised that this part of our customer base was facing the overwhelming challenge of plastic pollution, we also realized that we had a responsibility to help them out as much as possible.
A couple of years ago we started our environmental initiative, called “Green Link”. Our goal with the initiative states “to reduce CO2-emissions and plastic pollution within ship supply through innovation, collaboration and concrete action”.
Our work with “Green Link”, combined with our realisation that there was a gap to fill within the fishing industry, led us to the idea of creating a circular economy for the most used plastic products within our market – rope.
At this point we had already established a good relationship with a Danish company called Plastix AS. They are world leading when it comes to gathering, processing and recycling discarded plastic ropes and nets. Their final product is called OceanIX rPPC, plastic pellets that are completely made from discarded plastic waste from the maritime industry.
Our idea was quite simple: what if we used OceanIX rPPC to create new ropes?
It had not been done before, mainly because the recycled plastic pellets have some different characteristics than virgin plastic but also because the general interest of the manufacturers still remained low.
The path from idea to reality was not without its problems. It took us about 18 months before we finally managed to create our first version of (what is now known as) ReLine™.
Since then we have refined our process and created two more versions of the rope, the “final” one was delivered in November of 2021 and we already have orders from a lot of different customers within the Scandinavian fishing industry.
It’s not enough just to sell ropes that are made from old ropes however. Sure the product itself is “circular” (since it’s made from an older version of itself) but really to “close the loop” you also have to make sure that ropes make it back to Plastix.
This is why we have launched co-operation with several different parties to make sure that discarded fishing gear from our customers is also handled appropriately.
This is only the beginning of our journey with ReLine™ but we are very happy with the fact that the groundwork is done. If all parties included stay focused we might actually have a chance of impacting the market of plastic ropes in a really significant way.
Looking forward we are also planning on creating another version of ReLine™: a mix of OceanIX rPPC and virgin plastics.
It might seem strange to introduce non-recycled material to a product that is already 100% recycled but it is necessary to meet certain requirements within different markets.
Because ReLine™ is made from 100% recycled ropes and nets its MBL (minimum breaking load) is about 20% lower than equivalent ropes made from virgin plastics.
In most industries this is not an issue since the MBL is higher than it needs to be anyway. However, for certain markets the rope is required to meet certain standards (mainly ISO-standards) and then the current MBL of ReLine™ is too low.
That is why we are currently developing the ReLine™ Mix, a rope made from 70% OceanIX rPPC and 30% virgin plastic. This version will meet the requirements of various ISO-standards and can then be used on a much broader scale within all industries.
Our journey with ReLine™ has only begun but it has already been inspiring, educating and fun.
We urge all our friends within this industry to launch their own initiatives and projects concerning sustainability. We have to if we are to overcome the enormous challenges of climate change and pollution.