AKVA group develops the world's first pen made from recycled materials

March 13, 2023

AKVA group’s pens are designed to withstand challenges in tough environments. Load-bearing structures in pens must be of high quality, and therefore virgin plastic that has not been used or recycled before is used. AKVA group wants to prove that recycled plastic from a previous fish farm facilities meets the requirements of NS 9415:2021.

Therefore, AKVA group is collaborating with Plasto and Oceanize in a project to investigate how recycled materials work compared to virgin materials. AKVA group already uses recycled plastic in the walkways in the pens, and preliminary findings show that it is essential to control the quality of recycled plastic before it can be used in new pens. Initial tests of recycled plastic are very promising.

Sustainable fish farming

Jøran Strand in AKVA group has many years of experience in aquaculture with calculation, dimensioning, and sales of pens and mooring. Strand is an engineer from NTNU, and has worked in AKVA group since 1996. Since 2006 he has worked as a Sales Manager in the North region of Norway.

In February, the fish farming company Nova Sea started collecting discarded plastic pens to a collection point on land. Oceanize has cut up the pens and transported them to Rørvik for granulation. The granulate will be sent to Plasto for the production of staples and to AKVA group’s facility in Mo i Rana for the production of pipes. Then the pen will be assembled at its own assembly site before being towed to the customer.

“By establishing short, national value chains with all players in Norway, AKVA group is helping to reduce the environmental impact of the fish farming industry. I am proud to work for AKVA group and our commitment to sustainability. By using recycled plastic in the production of pens, we are utilizing discarded pens in a high-quality way and reducing CO2 emissions from pen production by two-thirds. This gives me a sense of making a difference and contributing to a more sustainable future,” says Strand.

The aquaculture industry generates up to 12,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually, which can be recycled or reused. By handling plastic waste nationally, it can potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50 million kg CO2 by preventing combustion and export of resources. Discarded pens are not currently a waste problem, but are handled in accordance with current regulations.

Comprehensive testing

According to Innovation Engineer for pens, Dag Ove Antonsen at AKVA group, tests show that clamps made of recycled plastic provide good strength, in fact better than those made of new material. In addition, pipes extruded from recycled material show good strength and flexibility and are easy to produce.

To ensure good quality of recycled plastic, extensive quality control and quality assurance are required as it can be challenging to know what kind of quality the plastic has. Some plastic components are better suited for recycling than others. Feed hoses that are full of fat and certain walkway plates with a different plastic type are examples of parts that are less suitable. In floating pipes, PE80 was used until around 2007 when it was replaced by PE100 which provides higher strength and stiffness.

“For every process where the plastic is heated to its melting point, there is a breakdown of additives. To ensure that the plastic is suitable for recycling even more times, new additives such as antioxidants and UV protection are added to achieve the best possible plastic quality,” says Antonsen.

AKVA group aims to give plastic eternal life. Although the recycled material often becomes a mixture of PE80 and PE100, it turns out that the material quality is well suited for floating pipes, clamps, walkways, railings, and other components.

Solid construction and long durability

AKVA group does a lot to make pens more sustainable. For all pen models, they have replaced the traditional use of styrofoam in the floating pipes with sectional watertight chambers.

Pen produced by AKVA group. Photo AKVA group.

Maintenance and monitoring of the pens are important to ensure long durability and optimal function. This includes regular inspection and repair of damages, replacement of equipment when it is worn or outdated, and implementation of preventive measures to reduce damages and wear.

Sustainability also involves HSE.

“With wide recycled walkways and solid railings, fish farmers will be able to move around with greater freedom and safety, and ensure a safer workplace. Additional equipment such as safety ladders can be mounted on the pens walkway to ensure that people who have fallen into the sea can easily get back up, regardless of the weather,” says Strand.

Fish farm facility for Nova Sea. Photo AKVA group.

AKVA group continues to be a pioneer in sustainable fish farming technology by finding new ways to use recycled materials.

“This is a key component in the company’s long-term sustainability strategy. I look forward to joining the journey ahead,” says Strand.

The project that investigates how recycled materials perform compared to virgin materials is supported by Handelens Miljøfond and SkatteFunn.

“The fish farming industry is an exciting sector and well suited to establish closed plastic cycle. By using old fish farming pens as raw material in new pens, AKVA group can contribute to a significant reduction in the use of virgin plastic. We are pleased to contribute to making one of Norway’s most important industries greener,” says Cecilie Lind, Managing Director of Handelens Miljøfond.

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