Climate change, extinction of species, marine pollution – the list of ominous environmental issues is long, and there is an acute need for action in many areas. This is why the Tönsmeier Group – as the first waste management company in Germany to do so – has agreed to a partnership with WWF Germany. Tönsmeier will support the WWF project »Ghost nets«, which the globally active organisation for nature conservation and the protection of the environment is to implement in the Baltic Sea next year. The contracts relating to this partnership were signed in September in the Berlin office of the WWF.  

Bernd Ranneberg, spokesman of the management, is proud of the future cooperation: »Supporting the WWF with its objectives and working together to leave subsequent generations an environment that is intact, diverse and worth living in is something that is very close to our hearts.« Christoph Heinrich, Director of Nature Conservation at WWF Germany, is also eagerly anticipating the partnership: »It is important that we have found a partner that can give us specialist advice on the development of sustainable recycling paths. The fact that Tönsmeier is also funding the »Ghost nets« project makes its involvement doubly valuable to us.«

Recovery of ghost nets from the Baltic Sea is to start in 2016

Almost a tenth of the world’s marine waste consists of ghost nets. According to estimates of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, this is more than 640,000 tonnes. Up to 10,000 abandoned parts of nets, torn from inshore fisheries or lost by fishing boats in a storm, get into the Baltic Sea alone every year. Even after decades, they still present a danger to the marine environment. »They become a silent trap for marine mammals, sea birds and fish«, says Jochen Lamp, Manager of the WWF Baltic Sea office.

Next year, therefore, specially trained fishing cutter crews are to recover several tonnes of nets from the German Baltic Sea. Then an optimum process must be developed for the collected material, which encompasses environmentally-friendly transportation, as well as effective processing and recycling. The aim is to leave the greatest possible proportion in the production cycle as secondary raw materials, in order to permanently reduce the consumption of natural resources.

»An important prerequisite for this is that we start by obtaining information on the composition, the size and the degree of contamination of the recovered nets«, says Dr Michael Krüger, Head of the Research and Development of the Tönsmeier Group.»On the basis of these findings, we can then recommend a sustainable recycling strategy to the WWF«, explains Krüger, who has also led a government-funded consortium for the recovery of secondary raw materials from landfill sites for three years.

In what form the ghost nets recovered from the Baltic Sea will be recycled in the future cannot be predicted with certainty at the moment. It is, however, of far greater significance that the project partners are taking an initial important step with their involvement, and are together developing a blueprint, which can, in the best case scenario, be transferred to other pressing environmental issues. »The thoughtless exploitation of natural resources has reached dramatic proportions. The basis for living on this planet is being gradually taken away from our children. In an active partnership with the WWF, we want to – within the scope of our capabilities – contribute to a trend reversal and promote a sustainable recycling management system with our ideas«, says Tönsmeier Managing Director Bernd Ranneberg in Berlin.

In the pilot project, WWF fished nets with a total length of 135 km out of the Baltic Sea.

Rejected requests, risky weather etc. – some of the difficulties in the course of the project.

In an interview, an expert from WWF delivers exciting first-hand information.

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