Bureo - turning nets to decks

Bureo Inc

The problem

It is estimated that ghost gear accounts for around 10% of all ocean waste, entangling millions of marine animals every year. Bureo was formed to find solutions to the growing issue of ocean plastic pollution, inspire future generations and initiate social change. Bureo initiated the ‘Net Positiva’ programme to assist in combatting the detrimental impacts that discarded fishing gear has on our marine environment.

The solution

Struck by the global issue of plastic pollution, three friends in Santiago Chile set out to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean by establishing plastic waste collection programmes. This quickly led to the formation of a young company, Bureo Inc., focused on recycling plastic waste into innovative products; with the profits from selling these products used to sustain the waste collection programmes.   

Faced with a dynamic range of polymer-based pollution in the ocean the team become aware of the complications, risks to the marine environment and lack of infrastructure for the proper disposal of waste fishing nets. Seizing an opportunity with the Chilean government through the Start-Up Chile programme, the team launched 'Net Positiva', Chile’s first ever fishing net collection and recycling programme. Net Positiva provides fishermen with environmentally sound disposal points, while Bureo receives highly recyclable and durable raw materials. Additionally, the programme provides fishermen with easy options for disposing old nets and helps them to generate local funds through a material buyback program.

Net Positiva provides fishermen with environmentally sound disposal points, while Bureo receives highly recyclable and durable raw materials.

For their first product, the team created a cruiser skateboard deck made from recycled fishing nets. Bureo’s innovative boards are manufactured in Chile through the team’s initiative. For each board produced, riders help keep more than thirty square feet (1 kilogramme or 2.2 pounds) of fishing net out of the ocean, while supporting Chilean fishing communities. In order to collect the discarded fishing nets from the collection points around Chile and minimise the carbon footprint of the operation, the fishing nets are back loaded on trucks that would have had otherwise empty loads.

The skateboard decks sell for $USD65 or the complete setup for $USD149. Boards are currently distributed through Bureo’s online store and a range of respected retailers, now available in four continents.

The outcomes

Bureo launched their Net Positiva public campaign in late 2013 through support from the Chilean Government, Northeastern University contacts at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF). Receiving early stage support, the team turned to crowdfunding to raise over US$64,000 to fund their first production run of the Minnow Skateboard in mid-2014. The boards were launched in September 2014 and the team is now working towards increasing sales channels and growing their impact.

Net Positiva is also working to expand relationships with other coastal clean up and conservation programmes that support the removal of marine debris from our coastal environment. In the first 12 months of the Net Positiva programme, over 10,000 kilogrammes of fishing nets were collected and recycled. This programme not only removes discarded fishing gear from the marine environment and turns the waste into a useable product, it also provides local employment opportunities, creating a shared value model.

Bureo is currently headquartered in California, with ongoing operations and team involvement on the ground in Chile. The team recently joined Patagonia's $20Million and Change Fund, an internal fund supporting likeminded start-up companies having a positive impact on the environment. 

The lessons

In establishing a collection and recycling programme, Bureo found that conveying the facts around the use of the material and ability to recycle was a key early step. The team emphasise the need to place value on material in order to establish a structure and provide compensation to the individuals responsible for its proper disposal. Recycling programmes are challenged by consistency of materials and transport costs - overcoming these barriers early on is vital. Bureo believe that fishermen have a right to access a properly managed disposal system to help reduce their burden of large volumes of fishing net waste.

In building a young company, an early lesson for the team was developing a network of experienced advisers and contacts. Finding individuals that understood their mission and passion, and staying close with these contacts, was a differentiator for the team.

Through following a passion for the ocean, the Bureo team have created a model to transform nets to decks and empower consumers to make a difference while doing something they love.

Key contacts 
David Stover
Chief Executive Officer

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