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Wilhelmsen pioneers in plastic recycling

All vessels will soon get the opportunity to choose which port they want to dispose their waste in. As a Wilhelmsen summer student project has mapped out hundreds of ports all over the world that handle and recycle waste, including plastics, in the best possible and sustainable way.

“Plastic waste in the ocean is a global problem that the maritime industry is concerned about. The industry has worked on several initiatives to reduce, map and recycle plastic ocean waste. This pioneer project from Wilhelmsen showcases that the industry takes responsibility and that more ports and countries are prioritising sustainable waste management,” says Harald Solberg, CEO of the Norwegian Shipowner’s Association.

Despite having had clear guidelines on how to dispose waste since 1989, today only 50% of waste from vessels is recycled in ports. In addition, there are different rules and regulations in different countries, especially related to plastic recycling.

Wilhelmsen’s summer students, Paul Huynh, Vilde Eirin Bruun and Mikkel Asdøl from two of the largest universities in Norway, therefore decided to create a product that maps vessel waste management in individual ports.

Through collaboration with ship agents in Wilhelmsen and Wilhelmsen seafarers onboard Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessels, they designed a system that collected information about how each port handles waste and what kind of waste recycling every country offers. So far, 162 ports are included in the prototype, but the ambition is to map 2 000 ports globally. The prototype is presented as a Power BI dashboard which can be accessed online and allows for better decision-making onboard the vessels.

“We wanted to tackle a global problem where shipping can contribute to finding a sustainable solution,” says Vilde Eirin Bruun, one of Wilhelmsen’s summer interns. Adding: “What surprised us the most, was that no one had thought about this already. There is a big difference in how waste is handled in Scandinavia compared with South-Asia. We have received positive feedback on our prototype, and it is exciting to see that Wilhelmsen has decided to take this further.”

The project will be further developed by Wilhelmsen’s Ships Agency division. Soon to be made available online with open access, there will be a feedback form in the application and the product will be further developed based on given comments and recommendations.

Filip Svensson, Senior Safety, Quality & Security Manager in Wallenius Wilhelmsen says: “We have 85 ships that sail all around the world and this type of information will be important for the crew onboard when planning their sailing route and where to dispose their waste.”