A circular approach to blue growth from Nofir AS

September 27, 2016

Every year approximately 640,000 tons of fishing equipment is dumped or lost at sea world wide (Nofir 2016). An estimated 10% of this waste occurs in Europe, with Norway alone contributing 15,000 tons. Nofir is a Norwegian company that seeks to address this problem by collecting and recycling materials from the fishing and fish farming industry. Nofir is now working across Europe to build a sustainable system to deal with end of use fishing and fish farming equipment.

From Norwegian beginnings to a European focus

Nofir was founded in 2008 when a fish net producer and a waste management company joined forces to solve a common problem – the lack of environmentally friendly methods for disposing of discarded plastic equipment from the fishing industry. The original purpose of the company was to establish a nationwide system for collecting discarded fishing equipment in Norway. At the time, the cost of disposal was high and burning or dumping used fishing equipment was common practice. In 2011 UAB Nofir was established in Lithuania. This is where the majority of the equipment collected by Nofir is dismantled. Following support from the European Union through the Eco Innovation Project in 2012, Nofir expanded its activity accross Europe, including offices in Poland (2013) and Turkey (2015).

A full service approach

When Nofir first established there were already several companies operating along the Norwegian coast collecting discarded plastics from fishing equipment. Generally these competitors were interested only in the high value fractions, resulting in the less valuable parts being dumped or burned. The main thing that makes Nofir unique is that it is building a sustainable system to deal with all types of plastic used in fishing and fish farming equipment. Another key component of the organisation’s success is its outreach model. In the early days, it became clear that the fishing and fish farming industries did not have a culture of investing money, or even energy, into the disposal of equipment that had reached the end of its life. Nofir overcame this challenge by arranging pick-up services at both fixed and flexible locations.

Spotlight on: EUfir

EUfir was a €684,562 project co-founded by the European Commission’s Eco Innovation project and the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation for a three year period from September 2012. The goal of the project was to establish a European system for collecting and recycling discarded equipment from the fishing and fish farming industry. Over the course of the project, the consortium collected a total of 909 tonnes of fishing and fish farming equipment and operated in Iceland (501t), Scotland (340t), Ireland (14t), Denmark (22t), and the Netherlands (33t). This work was in addition to the Nofir’s regular operations in Norway, which is still by far the country where the company is most active (4985t collected in 2015). EUfir was a collaboration between Nofir AS, UAB Egersund Net, UAB Nofir and Qualchem Zrt.

Regional dimension

Nofir’s head office is located in Bodø, in Nordland region. Although the majority of Nofir’s collection activities still occur in Norway, its activities are increasingly international. The company now collects all over Europe, dismantles materials in Eastern Europe (Lithuania and Turkey) and sells the dismantled material all over the world. As a result, it is difficult to assess the economic impact at the regional level. There is perhaps scope for Nofir to develop its own activities with respect to the development of new products from recycled materials. For example, in 2015 Nofir cooperated with a company that produced 1000 pairs of socks from recycled fishing equipment. Again, the degree to which such activities would contribute to regional development would vary depending on production and distribution models. The environmental benefits for Norway itself are dramatic – Nofir has collected approximately 18,555 tons of fishing and fish farming equipment in Norway alone since 2011.