Producing plastic from seaweed on the Sheep’s Head

seaweed lines

Posted on: 8th September, 2014

Category: Headlines

Contributor: West Cork People

Europe produced 57 million tonnes of plastics in 2010, with the majority being used in packaging. The production of plastics puts a strain on our already depleting fossil fuel resources and also impacts on the environment when plastics cannot biodegrade or be recycled. 

SEABIOPLAS, a project coordinated by Dr Julie Maguire in the Daithi O’Murchu Marine Research Station on Sheep’s Head Peninsula, aims to introduce sustainably cultivated seaweeds for the production of biodegradable bioplastics. 

PolyLactic Acid (PLA) produced using seaweed is a sustainable alternative to using petro-chemicals, being compostable and biodegradable. Currently, the production of non-petrochemical PLA is based on the use of important food sources for humans and animals (for example corn, wheat, sugar beets and sugar cane) and other natural resources. With the production of bioplastics expected to rise, the use of these resources will also increase and compete with food and energy production. This in turn will raise prices for biomass (plant matter used as fuel) and cause further damage to the environment.

By researching a system to sustainably grow seaweed, which is then processed to produce the lactic acid used in making PLA, SEABIOPLAS is developing a greener alternative to petrochemically-produced plastics.

Sustainably grown seaweed could become big business for Ireland. In 2010 world seaweed production was 19.9 million tonnes. Of this, Europe was only responsible for 0.4 per cent. Markets for seaweed include food, fertilisers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and animal feed. Controlled cultivation of seaweeds allows for high traceability, management of waste, high quality and sustainability — all qualities for which Ireland has already earned an excellent reputation.

Sustainability is further increased when cultivation of seaweed is carried out in Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) systems. IMTA systems work by incorporating the waste products produced by one species into the diet of another species. Aquaculture industries such as fish farms produce phosphorus and nitrogen that are lost to the surrounding ecosystem. Seaweed is able to utilise this nitrogen and phosphorus and produce new biomass through photosynthesis, thus removing these excess nutrients from the surrounding area.

IMTA cultivated seaweed also has several other advantages over the raw materials currently used in biomass-based plastics, including a reduction of CO2 emissions, higher productivity, no risk of potential deforestation, no freshwater consumption and no fertilisers or pesticides used.

The benefits of using seaweed in this way also carry through to several other industries. After the sustainably grown seaweed has been processed for PLA, residues left can be used in a number of ways. The capacity of both the cattle sector and fish aquaculture sector to absorb seaweed by-products as new ingredients in feed is huge. The by-products could also be used to manufacture supplements and additives, most of which currently come from South East Asia.

Waste represents enormous losses of resources; however from beginning to end SEABIOPLAS is setting the environmental example of how Ireland could use its natural resources to benefit all.

For more information see

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11th October, 2017  ·  

Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
by Dr John Borgonovo in The Parish Centre, Clonakilty
on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats brought the United States into WWI and created a crisis in Britain. To defeat the submarine menace, an American naval fleet was dispatched to County Cork, bringing about 10,000 sailors with it. This talk will explain the circumstances of this extraordinary event, and how Cork residents dealt with their unexpected American guests.

Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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11th October, 2017  ·  

Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

Building on the success of its inaugural 2016 event, local voluntary environmental organisation Sustainable Clonakilty invites people to bring along their apples and press them to extract their own juice to take home, using the group's Apple Press.

Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

This is a free community event and donations will be welcome to cover costs.

For further information, please contact Xavier at or text at 086/0476124.
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26th September, 2017  ·  

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