Categories
Materials Planet Care

42: Seaweed to shoes

Problem:

Sargassum algae accumulates on beaches and releases poisonous gases such as hydrogen sulphide and ammonia when it decomposes.

Solution:

Turn the algae into shoes, office supplies, packaging, slabs, glasses frames, mugs and more.


Since 2011, the Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago have faced larger and more frequent invasions of Sargassum algae and the problems associated with it.

One method of cleaning is by spade and barrow onshore. Another is by raking boats offshore. Barrages of shallow nets floated by long buoys can be used to ward off algae drifts, depending on wave height and current. Several companies have found solutions to convert Sargassum into compostable biomaterial.

Having worked in plastics manufacturing for 15 years where he specialised in the development of biomaterials, in 2010, Rémy Lucas of Saint Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), France founded Algopack to commercialise his formula for sourcing Sargassum powder to produce a biomaterial from which office supplies, packaging, slabs, glasses frames, mugs, caddies chips etc. are made.

This included finding a system to capture Sargassum, stabilize it and make sure it does not rot during shipping from the Caribbean.

With two other Breton companies, Olmix (Morbihan) and Codif (Saint-Malo), Algopack founded an acceleration company called BioAlg. Its objective is to create a worldwide chain and to structure the collection of Sargassum, on an industrial scale. In 2015, the company was bought by Lyreco, the European leader in the distribution of office supplies and personal protective equipment. Based in Valenciennes, the group employs 2,500 people in France.

In Quintana Roo, a Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula, after five years of research and development, Jorge Castro Ramos of Guanajuato founded Renovare to make clothing-grade textile fibers and environmentally friendly footprint objects using recycled plastic and sargassum.

Traditionally, Sargassum was used as a natural fertilizer or a herbicide to improve the harvest of products like corn, squash, chili and beans.

Recently, this fertilizer process has been commercialised by SUEZ, through its subsidiary SITA Verde. Supported by ADEME, in Guadeloupe, SUEZ has introduced Sargassum from the territory of the riverbank deposits of the Riviera du Levant in its recovery processes.

Discover solution 43: fertilizing with the “Bionic Leaf”

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