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CLOSING THE LOOP

Closing the loop is an opportunity to stop overfeeding the sea with nutrients and other pollutants that are slowly killing it, but it is also an opportunity to reuse and recycle valuable resources. It is the circular economy of the ocean.

 

The ocean is downstream of everything, so most of our unmanaged waste almost inevitably ends up in the oceans. But as there is a growing understanding that much waste can be seen as resources, there is a growing impetus to capture valuables such as nutrients or plastics before they reach the oceans.

VALUABLE NUTRIENTS IN CLOSED LOOP
A large part of nutrient run-off into the oceans comes from agricultural production. Farmers spend significant sums of money on fertilising their fields while downstream the water industry often spend a lot of resources on removing them from the drinking water. Keeping nutrients where they are needed can bring benefits to both industries while keeping the oceans healthier.

Nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can be transformed into energy and new fertilisers instead of flowing into the oceans to create dead zones. In the case of phosphorus, this double win situation is also a chance to preserve a critical resource which is approaching a shortage in supply in the near future.

New technologies are emerging that have the potential to improve nutrient management. The most promising of these technologies successfully reduce expenses or generate concentrated nutrient products that can be sold to offset costs. Closing the nutrient cycles is an opportunity to create healthier agriculture and healthier oceans, and it creates a space for innovation to develop cost efficient technology for turning runoffs into new resources.

In addition, to keep fertilisers in a closed loop with these new technologies, it is also possible to reuse the leftovers from livestock in agriculture to generate biogas that can be used as a source of energy.

STOP PLASTIC REACHING THE OCEAN
Closing the loop is also an opportunity to hinder other types of pollution from reaching the oceans, such as plastic. Most plastic does not bio-degrade but is only broken down in smaller and smaller pieces that accumulate in ocean sediments and enter the food web through ingestion by pelagic and benthic fauna, disturbing oceans ecosystems for centuries and resulting in an increasing health risk for humans. The longevity of plastics makes it ideal for reuse and recycling and by discovering the monetary value of plastic waste this can be turned into an opportunity. Planning for a more circular economy can hinder waste like plastic to reach the ocean and at the same time save money on the resources for producers.

Three-fourths of land-sourced plastic that reaches the ocean comes from uncollected waste or litter. Although there are big regional differences this implies that the potential for better handling and reuse of plastic is significant. Realising the value of plastic waste offers a space for innovative ideas to prevent and reduce the marine mess.

Seeing waste as a resource is one of the pillars in the circular economy. Closing the loop for waste and preventing it to reach the ocean can save the rich biodiversity thriving there. It will take further development of technologies, regulation and attitude to change the current flow of waste into the ocean. The return will not only be clean oceans with valuable biodiversity, but also promising business opportunities from turning waste into resources.

Key Numbers

1

Trillion US Dollars lost value every year from low recycling rates.

90

percent of phosphorus and 40% of ammonia load can be removed from sludge dewatering liquid.

560

Million US Dollars added value annual with nutrient cycling for Finland.

Solutions for this Opportunity

NUTRIENT RECOVERY IN WASTEWATER

Ostara recovers excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen in wastewater streams and converts them into fertilizer.
Location: Canada See this solution

SMART PHOSPHORUS RECOVERY

Grontmij’s Pearl® technology offers a cost-effective solution for phosphorus removal and recycling from wastewater.
Location: USA See this solution

FURNITURE FROM RECYCLED PLASTICS AND AGRO-WASTE

Diseclar combines plastic waste with agro-industrial vegetable fibers to produce wood-free furniture.
Location: Colombia See this solution

SCALING WASTE COLLECTION FOR SOIL FERTILIZERS

Waste Ventures India processes municipal garbage into nutrient-rich compost sold to farmers to rejuvenate their soil.
Location: India See this solution

INTEGRATED WATER MANAGEMENT

Changwon, South Korea is restoring streams and capturing ocean pollutants to improve water quality and restore aquatic biodiversity.
Location: South Korea

SURFBOARD MADE OF OCEAN WASTE

Five Oceans has collaborated with engineers and designers to create the ecoFin – a surfboard fin made of recycled ocean trash.
Location: Global See this solution

LAND-BASED FISH FARMING

Krüger Kaldnes has developed a recirculating aquaculture system that allows for efficient closed loop fish farming.
Location: Global See this solution

EFFECTIVE PLASTIC RECYCLING

Plastic Bank prevents plastic from entering the ocean by turning discarded plastic into a currency for low-income communities.
Location: Global See this solution



SURVEY FINDINGS

ONE OF THE FAVOURITES IN SUB SAHARAN AFRICA

Oceans are the last undiscovered frontier. However, it is not an issue where business sees great opportunities in general. However, it is not an opportunity business sees great potential in.

A DIVERSIFIED PICTURE

Ranked for its benefits to society and capacity to pursue, the opportunity of closing the loop comes in at the same place as smart oceans – in the bottom of all opportunities presented in this report. In Sub Saharan Africa, it is rated as the second best opportunity of all. While India and South America do not rank it as among the top opportunities. In the case of India, the capacity to pursue “closing the loop” is lower than on average for all the other opportunities, although the benefit for society has been assessed to be high by the respondents in the same region. For South America, both the benefits and capacity to pursue have been assessed to be lower than average of all opportunities.

STRONG SUPPORT FROM CIVIL SOCIETY

Stakeholder backing for this opportunity is high in China compared to the other regions. Also respondents from Sub Saharan Africa believe that capacity to pursue this opportunity will be higher within their region than the global average, in particular from business sectors perceived to be affected. Civil society is expected to be the strongest advocate for this opportunity across all regions and the backing from this group of stakeholders is one of the strongest across all opportunities. This may be an indication that issues related to the oceans and marine ecosystems do seem to be gaining interest, which in turn drive mobilisation for change.

Closing the loop is among the opportunities perceived to affect the governmental sector the most, however, the sector is not perceived to be more likely to pursue this particular opportunity than the remaining opportunities. The service sector is slightly more likely to pursue this opportunity than other opportunities.

NUMBER 13 ON THE OPPORTUNITY RANKING

Closing the Loop_Ranking

THE ECONOMIC CAPACITY, TECHNOLOGICAL CAPACITY, AND THE POLITICAL WILL POWER TO PURSUE THIS OPPORTUNITY ACROSS NINE REGIONS

  Capacity to pursue_Closing the Loop

BENEFITS AND CAPACITY

Perceived benefits from pursuing this opportunity (x), and capacity to do so (y), World and geographic regions. Scale goes from -10 to +10.

  GOR_SocietyCapacity_Closing the Loop


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