Discarded fishing gear is a huge problem. A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 640,000 tons of fishing gear is discarded annually that washes up on beaches, sinks to the ocean floor, collects in floating garbage patches, and tangles fish, birds, and other wildlife. Typically made from nylon to improve its stability in salt water, it takes centuries for the fishing gear to biodegrade.
Carpet manufacturer Interface and the Zoological Society of London have teamed up to form NetWorks, a joint-initiative to collect abandoned nylon fishing gear and turn it into new carpets by reprocessing the nylon.
A pilot project at the Danajon Bank in the Philippines involved 892 local fishers and their families collecting discarded nets in exchange for rice. Local families live in extreme poverty and the program provides a practical alternative to fishing as catches decline from overfishing. The program has recovered nine tons of discarded fishing gear during the one-year pilot. NetWorks hopes to expand the program to neighboring areas in the Philippines and beyond.
After collection, the recovered fishing gear is sent to Aquafil, which reprocesses the nylon into fresh yarns using their Econyl process. The yarns, made of 100 percent recycled material, is then sold back to Interface for manufacturing carpet tiles. Interface is launching a new product line called Net Effect, which will be made from the recovered fishing gear and consists of up to 81 percent total recycled content.
By creating a new market for discarded fishing nets, the NetWorks project will help reduce pollution and alleviate hunger in more places as it expands. We hope that it encourages fisherman to recognize the value of their nets and to prevent pollution at the source.