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Cleaning Up Plastic in The Sea

Every minute, a full garbage truck’s worth of plastic is emptied into the sea. Over 90 percent of all seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. These are devastating facts that we must addressed. Clearly, we must do what we can to change this picture. After all, the sea is our livelihood – and this will still be true in the future.

Every year, Lerøy participates in the big Beach Cleanup Day. Our efforts benefit the enjoyment of us humans, but are particularly important to all the fish and birds that are completely dependent on a clean sea. 

“We depend on the sea; it’s our livelihood. That’s why we’re keen to take as good care of it as possible – so that it can provide for our future livelihoods, too. Therefore, we wish to play an active role in contributing to a cleaner sea,” says Anne Hilde Midttveit, Head of quality and Sustainability at Lerøy Seafood Group.

Saturday, May 4 is the big Beach Cleanup Day for 2019 – an annual, nationwide environmental volunteer effort in which conservationists and eco-enthusiasts clean up beaches across the country, both along the coast and inland on the shores of rivers and lakes. The action is coordinated by Hold Norge Rent.

How Lerøy Fights Plastic Pollution 

The fact that plastic in our seas has become one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges is nothing new. Lerøy has operations in several places along the coast in Norway, and it is only natural for a seafood company to participate in this action.

It is important to help combat environmental challenges, and therefore Lerøy participates in several similar projects.

Fishing for Litter is a global volunteer effort to remove plastic from the sea. This is the example of the kinds of rubbish that fishermen find drifting in the sea. A fishing boat picked it up.

Fishing for Litter (FFL) is a measure to combat marine littering in Norway, conducted under the auspices of the Norwegian Environment Agency. Lerøy’s fishermen help by picking up whatever plastic and other debris they find in the sea when they are out working on their trawlers. The waste they collect is transported to the nearest Fishing for Litter reception point.

In the last two years, Lerøy has also delivered 924 tonnes of seines from net pens for recycling, via the Norwegian company Nofir. Nofir collects discarded equipment from the Norwegian and European fishery and aquaculture industries and recycles it to create clothing, furniture, etc. This prevents discarded equipment from ending up in the sea. At the same time, one helps to ensure that it will be recycled in the form of new products. 

Internal Measures for Plastic Reduction

Anne Hilde Midttveit can also recount several other measures Lerøy has initiated to reduce its use of plastics and the amount of plastic waste generated by the company’s operations.

In addition to removing plastics from the sea, Lerøy actively works to reduce the use of plastic materials in its own production.

“We have initiated an internal project, 50/50-5, in which we have set a goal to reduce our use of non-recyclable plastics by 50 percent over the next five years. We are also actively working to develop new types of packaging in order to optimise our use of plastics,” she says.

A Collaborative Project to Reduce Waste

Lerøy has collaborated with BOF (Bergen og Omegn Friluftsråd) on various projects to combat plastic pollution. Among other things, Lerøy’s work boats are used to collect plastics that other actors have collected in hard-to-access places. In 2018, the company collected over 15 tonnes of plastic.

To engage more people in this effort, Lerøy provides local organisations, schools, children and adolescents with transportation and food and covers other costs they may incur when picking up plastic litter.

“We would never have been able to collect so much without their help. Lerøy has an indispensable knowledge of local areas, and their boats allow us to travel near and far to collect various types of litter in inaccessible areas,” says the BOF’s Project Manager for Marine Waste, Gudrun Kristin Fatland.

Every year, enormous quantities of plastic are produced. The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature estimates that 22,000 tonnes of plastic are flushed into the world's oceans every single day.

Unlike paper and food waste, plastic that ends up where it doesn’t belong takes a very long time to break down. In the wild, an apple core decomposes in just a few months. A shopping bag can take up to 20 years, while a plastic bottle can take as long as 450 years to decompose.