Discarded fishing nets are a finding a host of new and exciting applications in products, from carpets and textiles to shoes and clothing. Some very innovative re-harvesting is making use of materials from the depths of the world’s oceans.
The UN estimates that around 10% of all marine trash comes from discarded fishing gear – with fishing nets being the prime source of waste. In addition to accumulating in the ocean as a waste material, fishing nets also contribute to a large marine problem known as ‘ghost fishing’: discarded nets which unintentionally catch and kill marine life. The good news though is that these menacing nets happen to be easily recyclable and are certainly worth the effort of re-harvesting.
Most fishing nets are made of nylon and this is key to their recyclability. Materials such as nylon do not change or degrade after even prolonged exposure to salt water. They are easy to process because nylon, as a thermoplastic material, can be easily melted down and transformed into something else. In fact, recycled nylon has the same properties as nylon manufactured from crude oil!
The Healthy Seas Initiative grasped the potential of fishing net recycling and is currently leading a pilot project in the North Sea region. To date, 20 tons of discarded fishing nets have been reclaimed by divers as part of the project. The waste nets are currently being transported Slovenia, where they will be transformed into yarn and then woven into carpets, towels, underwear and yes, even stockings. The future hope is to replicate this pilot project in the Adriatic Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Check out some great photos highlighting the removal of ghost fishing nets from the North Sea here.