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Teach a man how to fish… and how to recycle

Greek start-up company Enaleia is paying fishermen EUR 200 per month to collect waste for recycling while out at sea.  

Tonnes of plastic waste and ‘ghost nets’ are removed from Greek seas every month, according to entrepreneur Lefteris Arapakis. He realised something had to change when he saw with his own eyes how a beverage can from 1987 was pulled from the nets by a local fisherman, only to be thrown back into the sea. ‘We are paid to catch fish, not trash,’ the man commented.

Arapakis established Enaleia to teach fishermen about recycling. He says the monthly reward of EUR 200 has proven a powerful incentive for them to retreive the recyclables that end up in their nets, as well as bulky items like discarded fishing gear. The start-up firm has trained 58 locals to become fishermen and ocean trash collectors in the last two years.

The goal is to introduce a ‘more sustainable way of fishing’, says Arapakis. Besides, the ocean waste can be recycled one way or another. Nets and ropes, for example, can be converted into socks and bathing suits. Plastic packaging and beverage cans can be processed by certified recycling companies in Europe and incorporated into new products, Arapakis adds.

Enaleia received a EUR 20 000 grant from the Hellenic Initiative this year. It was also chosen as one of the 5 regional finalists of Europe in the Young Champions of the Earth awards by the United Nations Environment department in June.

On-shore collection point for discarded fishing nets.

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