Circular Ocean Hosts Successful #ChemHack Challenge in Inverness!

Date of issue: December 7, 2016

Circular Ocean recently held a unique challenge event in Inverness, Scotland, to help turn marine plastic waste a useful resource. The #ChemHack Challenge took place as part of the 17th European Meeting on Environmental Chemistry (EMEC17), hosted by the Circular Ocean’s lead partner, the Environmental Research Institute, North Highland College, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). The conference comprised of a broad range of topics within the field of environmental chemistry and attracted researchers from institutes around the world.

The #ChemHack was organised by Professor Martin Charter at The Centre for Sustainable Design, a Circular Ocean partner with a serious of challenges to design:

  • Washing processes to remove anti-foulants and other chemical compounds impregnated into nylon fishing nets and ropes (FNRs) and cages
  • Processes to decontaminate the waste water arising from the washing process
  • Processes to extract copper compounds from FNRs and cages for metals recycling

Circular Ocean, funded under the EU’s ERDF Interreg VB Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) programme, aims to inspire remote communities within northern Europe and the Arctic to realise the economic opportunities of discarded marine plastic, in particular, fishing nets and ropes. The purpose of adding anti-foulants is to protect and extend the life of the nets and cages, however these treatments on the nets makes the recycling of them challenging and problematic at the “end of life” stage. The challenge was led by Professor Martin Charter, the founder of the Centre for Sustainable Design (CfSD) and the #ChemHack Challenge provided a platform for participants to think, develop and create innovative solutions to the aforementioned challenges associated with the fishing industry. This is line with the aims of the Circular Ocean project, which seeks to establish eco-innovative ways of re-using nets which have been impregnated with anti-foulants, so to understand and capitalise on the value of waste FNRs. In this way, the workshop contributed to one of the key project objectives; to develop eco-innovation and eco-entrepreneurship in the Northern Arctic and Periphery (NPA) region.

As part of the one day hack workshop, doctoral, post-doctoral and senior environmental chemists from the ERI and other international institutes were introduced to the various challenges. Groups were established and were given a selection of FNRs impregnated with a variety of anti-foulants. Participants were then led through a creative process which ultimately resulted in a number of viable solutions. Critical to these solutions was that they were environmentally-friendly in nature and a number of ideas emerged.

The workshop was led by Professor Martin Charter (CfSD), who stated “#ChemHack produced excellent solutions to the problem of washing anti-foulants from nylon fishing nets. #ChemHack builds on the GreenThink innovation process used at the #Net_Hack_Challenge that will be further developed for an Innovation workshop in Iceland in summer 2017.

Environmental  Chemist and #ChemHack participant Paul Gaffney said of the event “The #Chemhack was a very useful and enjoyable exercise, bringing together the ideas of people from different backgrounds, to collectively think of solutions to a problem – the washing of anti-foulants from FNRs

Dr. Neil James, Circular Ocean Project Coordinator at the ERI stated “The unique #ChemHack event was a wonderful opportunity to bring together world-class expertise to help solve a practice and pressing issue. As a special session at the EMEC17 conference, Circular Ocean’s #ChemHack was able to focus the minds of environmental chemists, and tap into their knowledge and extensive experience.”

Please contact or for further information or if you would like to discuss a collaboration opportunity. Check back here for #ChemHack updates too!