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High quality clothes made from marine plastic litter

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - UPCYCLINGTHEOCEANS (High quality clothes made from marine plastic litter)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2015-11-30

ECOALF has undertaken its most ambitious project to date: Upcycling the Oceans, an unprecedented global initiative to help clean the oceans of debris with the assistance and strong involvement of fishermen. It’s a unique, complex and groundbreaking project whose ultimate goal is to transform the plastic debris found in the Mediterranean Sea into yarn made with 100% recycled filaments of high technical quality and textures to produce textile products and innovative accessories.
On the 1st June 2015 ECOALF was awarded with the phase 1 of the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Instrument of Horizon 2020. During these six months, ECOALF has developed a test experience to remove trash from the seabed via fishermen off the coast of Levante and has identify five Spanish partners that are leaders in their respective areas to transport and select PET from the waste recovered, to use the most innovative technology to produce pellets and yarn to manufacture fabric with the utilization of the most sophisticated machinery. ECOALF has shared its five years of experience recycling different types of debris (PET bottles, discarded fishing nets, used tires, etc.) and the R&D and know-how it has gained through its international joint ventures with technology partners that are recycling specialists. The SME Instrument has allowed ECOALF to involve 160 boats from eleven fishermen organizations, and has produced the first chips/pellets made with PET recovered from the Mediterranean Sea.
In comparison to previous ECOALF´s experiences related to the recycling of land waste, the complexity of Upcycling the Oceans lies on the low and inconsistent quality of the debris removed by the fishermen as a result of its exposure to sun, salt and water. Investment in R&D will be decisive in achieving quality commensurate with ECOALF´s standards and in demonstrating that where others see trash, ECOALF sees high quality raw materials.
The project is organized into several phases, and has the aim to show that cleaning the oceans is possible, and that a portion of the collected materials can be recycled into chip/pellets, yarn, fabric and products: 1. Recovery of waste from the sea, 2. Transport and classification of debris, 3. Production of chips/pellets, 4. Production of yarn, 5. Production of fabrics, and 6. Design, production and distribution of ECOALF garments and accessories.
The initiative has a clear replicability vocation and aims to involve all the fishermen organizations of the Spanish Mediterranean area from Tarragona to Cadiz and to promote the implementation of a national system to recover waste from the sea and to provide a second opportunity to PET and other type of residues. During phase 2 of the SME Instrument a strategy to transfer this previous pilot experience to other Mediterranean regions will be presented.
The test experience that has been already implemented has proved that the initiative is feasible from a technical, economic and environmental point of view. There are many worldwide initiatives to recover waste and plastic from the shoreline, but this is the first time to recover it from the bottom of the ocean. Upcycling the Oceans is an experience of green circular economy that will benefit the environment and will assure the good quality of life for future generations.


• To develop polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recy¬cling processes that will allow ECOALF to obtain pellets using marine debris in a high state of decomposition.
• To obtain pellets with a pollutant level less than 60 ppm from the plastic debris. To do this an iterative trial and error process in the recycling and yarn manufacturing stages will be developed un¬til desired pellets could provide the textures considered.
• To determine the proportion of marine PET versus land one that we will recycle to obtain pellets with the sufficient quality to produce fabrics (values between 40 and 70% are considered, which are much higher than any previous attempt by companies in the sector worldwide).
• To test different composition of polyester nano-compounds and characterization of the samples obtained through thermal analysis such as DSC (differential scanning calorimetry), TGA (thermogravimetric analysis) or rheology (capillary and rotatio¬nal), VICAT, “melt flow index”, as well as through mechanical trials of traction, hardness and scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
• To obtain special technical properties in yarn as a result of applying polymer additives during the extrusion process (pigments, protector UV, TiO2 in order to blend…).
• To clean the ocean, with the extraction and recovery of waste that is harmful to marine ecosystems in order to develop new generation products.
• To develop a collaborative productive chain based on the involvement of fishermen organizations that will collect plastics when extracting fish with their trawl nets. The project will change fishermen mentality as waste collected is currently thrown it back into the sea.
• To decrease the indiscriminate consumption of natural resources by recycling highly com¬plex materials, giving them a second use.
• To reduce greenhouse gasses emissions through the use of sustainable manufactu¬ring mechanics that require fewer steps and therefore less energy and water than traditional processes.
• To raise awareness on the environmental problem related to marine waste.
• To prove the feasibility of the processes. ECOALF will demonstrate that it is possible to design, produce and sell garments made from plastic marine debris. The project will show that the value chain is profitable and that it is possible to produce garments with the same technical characteristics as the best non recycled.
During the phase 1 of the SME Instrument it is important to underline that ECOALF has worked already on the building up of a stakeholders group composed by companies covering the whole production process, from the recovery of the plastic at the sea to the elaboration of the fabric, and by the production of pellets with the necessary purity for textile application in fabrics with technical properties.
The full process will involve the following steps:

1. Recovery of waste from the sea. Expected results:
Involvement of 420 boats from the regions of Valencia, Cataluña, Murcia and Andalucía in 2017

2. Transport and classification of debris. Results obtained so far:
Installation of 35 containers in eleven ports
Development of a recovery and transport protocol of debris from ports to recycling plants
Treatment of 16.5 tons of waste
2 tons of marine PET recovered

3. Production of chips/pellets. Expected results:
During December 2015 it is expected to produce 15 tons of pellets from marine and land PET.
Production of 16 tons of marine PET/month from 2017.

4. Production of yarn. Expected results:
During January 2015 it is expected to produce 12 tons of yarn 100% recycled combining ocean and land origin PET.

5. Production of fabrics. Expected results:
During March 2015 it is expected to produce 43,500 meters of fabric elaborated from marine PET.

6. Design, production and distribution of ECOALF garments and accessories Results obtained so far:
Selection and creation of the project consortium involving five strategic partners.
Coordination and development of the first three steps of the production process.
Evaluation of the feasibility of the production process from an economic, technical and environmental point of view.
Design and definition of textile products to be produced.
o ECOALF has already developed partially part of the production process to confirm that the manufacturing of fabrics and garments from marine litter is feasible from an economic, technical and environmental point of view.

o The recovery of the marine litter has already been implemented in some fishermen organizations at the east of Spain and the process proposed is appropriate to guarantee a minimal quantity of PET from the sea. It is expected than more fishermen will be involved during the project to increase the percentage of PET in the production process.

o A pilot experience to transport and select marine debris has already been developed and for the moment there are no risks defined during this step of the production process.

o The entities in charge of the yarn and fabric production process have the necessary experience to assure the technical and quality characteristic that ECOALF fabrics require.

o ECOALF presents a business plan for eight years based on previous experiences producing fabrics from land PET and production costs step by step. From this perspective the project expects a negative EBITDA for the first two years (2016-2018). In 2019 will reach €91,113 EBITDA with a margin of 3.10% and it will increase to €2,884,657 in 2024 (22.30% of margin).

o The production process will also contribute to improve environment avoiding the consumption of 20% of water, 50% of energy and the emission of 60% of greenhouse gases. The recovery of plastic from the sea will directly contribute to avoid water pollution (from 308,840 bottles in 2018 to 1,009,203 bottles in 2014).

o ECOALF has identified the production of environmentally sustainable garments as a market opportunity. ECOALF is the only true all-recycled brand with enough experience to develop successfully the innovative project to produce fabrics from marine litter.