Wednesday, October 5

A mobile with… a fishing net

Ghost fishing nets. / Archive

A smartphone generates 55 kg of carbon emissions during its production process

Jose A. Gonzalez

Silicon, aluminum, plastic, lithium, nickel, zinc. These are some of the materials that the Spanish carry in their pockets. Whether in different proportions or weights, they are the elements that give life to the latest mobile devices on the market. A long list of ingredients to which fishing nets must be added. “These can be integrated into a wide range of applications, such as automotive or electrical components, furniture, watches and surfboards,” says Nileshkumar Kukalyekar, business manager for South Asia at Royal DSM’s Engineering Materials.

Every year, about 12 million tons of plastic end up in the seas and oceans of the entire planet, 10% of this waste comes from fishing nets. In fact, a report by the NGO WWF points to ghost nets as “a great deadly weapon that abounds in the seas, governments and companies have not paid enough attention to it.” His research shows that the number of species affected by entanglement in this type of net or the ingestion of plastic waste has doubled since 1997, from 267 to 557 species. “Royal DSM collects around 2,000 tonnes of discarded fishing nets each year in and around the Indian Ocean,” explains Kukalyekar. He captures that “it’s reused in polyamide resin pellets,” she adds.

The boats of this Dutch company go out to fish, but not to catch sardines, anchovies, horse mackerel and mackerel in the Indian Ocean. Its radars focus on nylon, polyester and polyolefin. “Most of the nets discarded at sea are made from these materials,” says Kukalyekar.

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The 2,000 tons per year captured by the ships of this firm save the lives of whales, turtles and other marine species. “In addition, they have a second life,” highlights the business manager for South Asia at Royal DSM’s Engineering Materials. These drifting materials at sea, once captured, are converted into a high-performance polymer “that can be reinforced with fiberglass,” he says. “This way it can be applied in electronic components”, repeats Kukalyekar.

The new technological life

A novel material baptized as Akulon RePurposed “with performance comparable to that of new petroleum-based plastics.” In addition, thanks to its composition, this chemical element can resist continuous exposure to the sun, salt, water and sand. “Our devices are made with a minimum of 20% reused fishing nets,” says Pranveer Singh Rathore, Head of R&D at the Advanced CMF Lab of the Mobile Experience business at Samsung Electronics.

In collaboration with Hanwha Compound, the South Korean Samsung has managed to integrate these ghost networks into parts of its new Galaxy S22, “we use them in key components and in the internal cover of the S Pen,” Rathore points out.

This initiative, according to data from the South Korean firm, could prevent more than 50 tons of discarded fishing nets from entering the world’s oceans. In addition, it includes increasing the use of recycled materials, reducing standby power, eliminating single-use plastic from packaging and diverting all waste from landfills by 2025. “We are constantly looking for new ways to develop sustainable materials that not only use our planet’s resources efficiently, but also help us deliver high-quality Galaxy devices,” Singh says.

Sustainability is a movement that has also taken root in the world of technology. In 2019, the search engine giant Google announced the construction of its mobile devices with recycled materials. An initiative to which the Chinese firm realme has recently joined.

The environmental footprint of the mobile

It is estimated that more than 5,000 million people, which is approximately two thirds of the world’s population, have a mobile phone. A society connected, but not entirely with the environment.

Almost all of the carbon footprint is produced in the production process. An average mobile phone generates 55kg of carbon emissions during this phase. “We look forward to that day when technology is not waste,” says Singh.

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