The Net Effect

With frost on the ground and wearing an extra pair of thermals, Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) participants met in Newhaven, UK this week to discuss a fledgling project to recycle fishing nets. This project will ultimately help the environment while saving money for fishermen. Sound too good to be true? Read on!

MCB Seafoods and World Animal Protection are working with the GGGI to tackle the issue of end-of-life fishing gear. Problems with end-of-life gear begin in some places because the disposal facilities are inadequate and the associated charges prohibitive. In the UK, for example, small vessels can pay around £500 per year in landfill charges, which can significantly impact on a small fishing business. The upshot of this is that quaysides are often littered with end-of-life gear.

An integral function of the GGGI is to demonstrate the value of plastic waste. Hardly a day goes by without a photo shared on social media which shows a beach littered with plastic debris including items like bottles, ghost nets and food packaging. This litter is a danger to marine wildlife and the wider marine environment, but much of it could be recycled if caught in time. This theory is a key piece of the ghost gear puzzle because work so far has shown that old fishing nets have a clear value attached to them, if treated properly. GGGI participants Bureo, for example, make skateboards and sunglasses from old nets, Net-Works produce carpet tiles and Fourth Element use recycled net yarns in their ‘Ocean Positive’ swimwear range. The possibilities really are endless and show the tangible benefits to business, the environment and local communities.

One of the main challenges in the UK is that nets are made from a variety of different plastics and these materials have different treatment requirements and different values. Since last year World Animal Protection has been holding workshops and technical meetings to find a solution for the nets that are made from Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) which is what many fishermen use in the UK. Nobody wants to see these nets end up at sea and some of the UK’s leading experts are now working to find solutions to make sure they don’t.

In Newhaven, MCB Seafoods and World Animal Protection visited the pilot locations for a project on the South coast and met Jacob from PlastiX, a company in Denmark who are keen to solve this challenge and collect nets of varying types across Europe. PlastiX are making major in-roads in the sector and have the infrastructure to handle all the components of fishing nets in the recycling process from PE to nylon.

Christina Dixon, UK Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection, said:

It was a pleasure to meet Jacob and visit small ports in Sussex where fishermen are keen to get stuck into recycling the old nets that are littering the quayside and introduce a practical, sustainable solution to their future end-of-life nets. Seeing how enthusiastic and, frankly, how simple, the solution is we’re wondering if it really is the Nets Big Thing.