Is it cost effective? Where do we get it from?
We are working on developing industrial solutions to the Sargassum crisis hitting the Caribbean each summer. We want to create sustainable uses for the seaweed biomass whilst also working towards cleaner beaches which will encourage tourists to return to the area.
Tourism in Mexico alone accounts for around 8% (over $20 billion) of its total income each year. Since Sargassum began to cover the coastline in 2011, the tourism has taken a hit, leading to huge annual losses, around $3.5 billion in 2018 alone.
Sargassum clean up cost are increasing every year and previously have fallen to local councils and beach concessionaires to organise community beach cleans using limited manual equipment and light machinery. The Mexican Navy have now been asked to lead the operation from the ocean, along with 4 new barges to help collect the seaweed at sea and large floating barriers which prevent the biomass washing ashore.
Both methods, whilst effective are expensive and time consuming but it is thought that ocean clean up systems may pose some benefits. Perhaps the biggest benefit to ocean clean up methods is the impact on Mexico's tourism industry. Sargassum will be prevented from reaching, the otherwise pristine, beaches, meaning that tourist will return to the area and reestablish the economy.
The new vessels are expected to collect at least 80 tons per day (360 between 4 vessels) and take 4 personnel to operate verses over 100 volunteers collecting on shore at around 35 tons per day. The collected biomass is currently disposed of at landfill or buried in less used areas of the beach. We are taking an in-depth look at the economics surrounding Sargassum collection to get a better understanding of the opportunities surrounding a viable biorefinery. We will be releasing our findings in the near future.
Keep up with the latest over on twitter @PhycoMExUK