SEAweed Tech project receives funding to reduce plastic pollution

SEAweed Tech

Red seaweed is used to create a bioplastic product. Image credit: UTS

SEAweed Tech, a bioplastic product made from red seaweed, was developed by University of Technology Sydney (UTS) researchers. It will receive $840,000 in funding over three years to provide a solution for plastic pollution. 

UTS Climate Change Cluster (C3) director and professor of Marine Biology Peter Ralph is leading the project, which is based in the Philippines where one million people depend on seaweed for their income. Their national fishing stocks are now depleted by 75 per cent. 

The Philippines produces 1.88 million metric tonnes of plastic waste each year. The availability of cheap plastic and the lack of a solid waste management plan, combined with poverty, is spurring plastic pollution.   

The SEAweed Tech project aims to replace petro-plastics with a biodegradable alternative. 

“Every year, about eight million tonnes of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations,” Ralph said. 

“We want to empower local communities to manage their marine plastics pollution, and develop a new green industry that can generate a new income source for seaweed farmers in coastal communities in the Philippines.” 

SEAweed Tech is collaborating with Coast 4C to develop a green industry for coastal seaweed farming through developing a zero-waste green chemistry to produce seaweed-based bioplastics. 

This bioplastic produces zero waste in its manufacturing process, has a clean supply chain and will create long term local employment. 

The funding was supplied by international philanthropic organisation Julius Baer Foundation.  

“We are proud to support the SEAweed Tech project, helping to reduce marine pollution, while stimulating new economies,” Julius Baer Foundation CEO Christoph Schmocker said. 

The new extraction method is more suitable for small scale implementation with lower technological barriers than traditional seaweed extraction methods, UTS polymer chemist Dr Parijat Ray said. 

“We wanted to make the process as straight-forward as possible so seaweed farmers can implement this technology locally, and sell their partly-processed seaweed materials into new supply chains, to support the rapidly growing demand for bioplastics,” Ray said. 

For the SEAweed Tech project to be commercialised, it will need to be inexpensive. 

“The next funding phase for the SEAweed Tech project will allow the team to optimise our technology,” Ralph said. 

“By increasing production efficiencies, they can then develop the pathway to commercialisation.” 

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