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The Single-Use Plastics Directive & How It Applies to the Aquaculture Industry

Jan. 06, 2022

Between 80% and 85% of marine litter (in terms of beach litter) is plastic, with single-use plastic items accounting for 50% and fishing-related items for 27% of the total.

As a means of addressing this issue, the Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUPD) (EU) 2019/904 aims to shift from a linear business model to a circular business model. This means moving away from using plastic products (e.g. cups, straws, etc.) and disposing of them in landfills to a system that incorporates the recycling of used or "decommissioned" products into the expected life cycle of the product. The deadline for implementation of the Directive is December 2024.

The directive allows for the creation of extended producer responsibility programs (EPR programs).


the lifecycle of plastics


Due to the high recycling potential of plastic fishing gear components, Member States should introduce extended producer responsibility for fishing gear and plastic-containing fishing gear components based on the polluter-pays principle to ensure separate collection of discarded fishing gear and to finance environmentally sound waste management of discarded fishing gear, in particular recycling.

Many similar programs are already in place for other items such as tires, batteries, and agricultural plastics, and Liam Moloney of the IFFPG, the overseas agency for the Agricultural Plastics EPR program, gave a brief webinar on how the program works within the industry. The group's board is made up of representatives from farmers, producers, manufacturers and the IFA. It is proposed that a similar body be established under legislation from relevant groups in the fisheries and aquaculture sector to oversee the EPR scheme in our industry.

BIM commissioned a report to assess the feasibility of recycling surplus oyster bags in Ireland or abroad. The authors of the report put a lot of effort into investigating all possible ways to reuse or recycle these bags, and at the time of publishing the results there was no clear pathway to recycling. A large part of this is due to insufficient quantities. There are simply not enough bags to make them economically viable for commercial entities to be interested in them.

Article 3.4.

"Fishing gear" means any article or equipment used in fishing or aquaculture for the purpose of targeting, catching or rearing living marine resources or floating on the surface of the sea, and deployed for the purpose of attracting and catching or rearing such living marine resources.

With the scope of the Directive encompassing not only oyster bags, but all "fishing gear," we may now have reached the point of reaching a viable critical mass and stimulating commercial interest.


So, what is the intended purpose of all this additional cost and effort?

The EU's intentions are laudable and we naturally agree.

Member States should take the necessary measures to lead a significant reversal of consumption growth in line with the overall objectives of the EU waste policy, in particular waste prevention.


This will be achieved by recording and reporting annually the amount of plastic gear placed on the market and decommissioned. These data will enable member states to set targets for the industry to reduce the use of plastics. However, there is a long way to go between here and there, and much work needs to be done to gain meaningful support from industry, establish EPR programs and get these record-keeping systems up and running.


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