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Żibel Studio – The NGO with the Solution for the recycling of Ocean Plastics

Published: January 31, 2024 - 17:49
Updated: January 31, 2024 - 17:49
Żibel Studio – The NGO with the Solution for the recycling of Ocean Plastics

Żibel, a dynamic NGO, has emerged as a leader in the fight against ocean plastics.

With a mission to minimize waste on the islands and rejuvenate the natural environment, Żibel is carving a path forward with innovative recycling solutions for marine plastic waste.

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zibel studio

What is Żibel Studio?

Żibel, the non-governmental organization aiming at eliminating marine waste pollution, has initiated a project called Żibel Studio. This project focuses on filling the gap in Malta’s waste management system in terms of the recycling of marine plastics. It is divided into two main parts: the collection of marine plastics by local communities into Żibel bins scattered around the island, and the transfer of the plastics to a creative hub called Żibel Studio where anyone, from students and creatives to entrepreneurs, is free to come and find new ways to put these plastics to use.

How does marine plastic impact the environment?

Plastic has helped humanity progress in the last century, in aspects such as healthcare and natural resource alternatives. However, plastic pollution has now made its way into every ecosystem on our planet, with particularly dire consequences for the marine environment. According to the United Nations (UN), 400 million tonnes of plastic waste are being produced every year. Moreover, less than 10% of the plastic produced globally has ever been recycled. This means that millions of tonnes of plastic waste are continually floating around the planet’s oceans. The main property that makes plastic so useful is its durable chain-like polymeric structure which nature cannot degrade. Therefore, it is essential to remove it from the environment as it will instead break down into smaller pieces until they become micro-plastics or nano-plastics, which have even made their way into human bloodstreams.

zibel studio

This project will focus on the larger pieces of plastic waste that end up in our seas, categorized as macro and mega-plastics. These can be fatal to marine wildlife in many ways, including suffocation, ingestion when mistaken for prey, and entanglement. If not immediately fatal, the plastics reduce the swimming ability of the animal and cause lacerations, internal injuries, and infections. Their removal also prevents their breakdown into smaller fragments, which have extensive environmental and physiological effects.

Why can it not be recycled?

A massive limitation of coastal clean-ups is the fact that most marine plastics cannot be recycled, or at least require much more extensive processing than would normally suffice. Much of this waste would have been in the sea for years before they are collected. During this time, the plastics would have become extremely contaminated by substances present in the surrounding saltwater as well as other larger debris such as algae, while also becoming increasingly brittle. Hence, extensive separation and cleaning would be required, which at times would make the process too complex and extremely costly. Therefore, this plastic is simply dumped in landfills with all other unrecyclable waste.

What can be done instead?

A first step towards a solution to this issue is shifting from relying on state-wide recycling to smaller-scale, private initiatives. Such projects are already operating internationally. A good example of this is the work being done by a UK-based company called Odyssey Innovation, which began as a voluntary group carrying out marine clean-ups and has now evolved into a successful company that produces kayaks from marine plastic waste supplied by several partners. Another well-known company is Patagonia, which has recently begun incorporating discarded fishing net material into sunglasses production.

zibel studio

In conclusion, Żibel Studio stands as a beacon of innovation and environmental stewardship in Malta’s ongoing battle against marine plastic pollution. By harnessing the collective efforts of local communities and providing a creative hub for the recycling of marine plastics, Żibel Studio not only addresses the urgent need for waste management but also fosters a culture of sustainability and resourcefulness.

As we confront the staggering impacts of plastic pollution on our oceans and marine life, initiatives like Żibel Studio offer a tangible pathway toward meaningful change. By reimagining the potential of discarded plastics and embracing innovative approaches to recycling, Żibel Studio embodies the spirit of resilience and ingenuity necessary to safeguard our planet’s fragile ecosystems for generations to come. Together, we can turn the tide on marine plastic pollution and create a brighter, cleaner future for all.

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About author

Bettina Nardelli
I’m Bettina Nardelli, a 21-year-old hailing from the tiny island of Malta. Freshly graduated in biology, I am aiming to pursue a meaningful career in climate change and conservation. Following my stint in the environmental sector of the Maltese public service, I transitioned to a private company dedicated to enhancing urban climate resilience. I am also extremely passionate about working with NGOs and am very involved with Zibel, an organization committed to combatting ocean plastic waste. Additionally, I contribute as an acoustic analyst to a research project on dolphin eco-location.
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