Fionnuala Quin, founder and CEO of Kelpy, with an extruder that can produce seaweed-based bioplastic pellets. Quin’s father was a fisherman in Western Australia and she is only too aware of the issues facing the country’s coastal communities and marine biodiversity © KelpyAustralian bioplastics startup, Kelpy, has partnered with MIT spinoff and Caribbean ClimateTech startup, SOS Carbon, to create the first tangible and sustainable solutions to reduce the size and impact of the 5,000 miles wide sargassum bloom floating in the Atlantic. The mass of seaweed is the largest it’s ever been for this time of year, affecting tourism, infrastructure and local fishing industries throughout the Caribbean area, including the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Florida.
“We have an opportunity to create new diversified industries across the Caribbean, adapting to this new reality and creating a more resilient and regenerative tourism.”
Bioplastic pellets ©KelpyThe organisations have partnered to act together in harvesting the seaweed from the ocean, using SOS Carbon’s proprietary technology to harvest the seaweed, and using Kelpy’s bioplastics technology to transform the seaweed into bioplastic pellets. The collaboration between the two organisations could help remove 50,000 tonnes of sargassum from the mass over the next year, the equivalent of of 91 olympic sized swimming pools, turning large portions of the mass into bioplastic pellets ready to be used in a more sustainable production of plastic products.
SOS Carbon has developed The Littoral Collection Module (LCM), a proprietary system which are currently mounted to fishing boats throughout the Caribbean. This allows for a cost-effective, environmentally friendly collection solution which can be easily scaled throughout the region. The LCM can be deployed in less than two weeks from factory to site and harvest up to 70 tonnes per day.
SOS Carbon has trained 65 local fishermen to use the LCM, creating formal jobs in an informal sector and providing action for fishermen which focus on environmental remediation rather than marine ecosystem exploitation. Sargassum collection, logistics and processing could create 10,000 jobs across the Caribbean Region alone.
Kelpy’s bioplastic pellets can be utilised in current plastic manufacturing machinery, meaning the sargassum bloom could be turned into soft, malleable plastics or rigid plastics today. With breakthrough polymer science, the Kelpy pellet innovation is the most sustainable, versatile and affordable seaweed-based bioplastic solution on the global market. Kelpy has designed their pellets to be used in standard injection moulding equipment without the need for retrofitting, making the transition to more sustainable packaging simpler, faster and more cost-efficient than ever before.
Kelpy’s pellets can be made out a range of seaweedsThe huge volumes of Sargassum currently being washed up in areas such as the Caribbean are a potential source of bioplastic material for companies such as Kelpy © SOS CarbonThe mass of sargassum has long been affecting multiple industries, including fishing and supply chains, however the tourism industry has taken the biggest hit, particularly in the Caribbean – an incredibly tourism dependent region. In 2018, the mayor of Solidaridad in Mexico claimed the increase in sargassum resulted in a 35% drop in tourism. Over the years this has worsened, causing hundreds of millions in losses for local economies yearly. Direct costs for mitigating impacts currently exceed USD$120 Million across the Caribbean.
“Tackling the issue of saving our oceans is going to rely on the efforts of many organisations from around the world working together to find solutions to common problems,” said Kelpy Founder, Fionnuala Qui
“The reduction of the mass is a problem we have a solution for and we have already validated that the transformation can be scaled for the economic benefit of the region ” said Andres Bisono Leon, CEO of SOS Carbon
. “We have an opportunity to create new diversified industries across the Caribbean, adapting to this new reality and creating a more resilient and regenerative tourism.”
As the sargassum mass continues to grow year on year, SOS Carbon and Kelpy are calling on investors and government agencies to recognise and address one of the fastest-growing threats to the world’s blue economy and ocean ecosystem.