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Ghost fishing: from waste to wear

Europe – Healthy Seas, an international initiative working to stop ‘ghost fishing’, has claimed an ‘important milestone’ in its successful pilot programme by retrieving 20 tonnes of discarded fishing nets from the bottom of the North Sea. The unwieldy plastics are now on their way to Slovenia to be ‘regenerated’ into ECONYL yarn.

Scuba divers and salvage specialists collaborating with Healthy Seas spent all summer bringing layers and layers of runaway fishing nets to the surface along the coasts of the Netherlands and Belgium. The recovered nets were stored at a depot in the Netherlands’ Scheveningen harbour.

The 20 tonnes of fishing nets is a promising start but represents only a fraction of the worsening marine litter problem, Healthy Seas cautions. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) calculates that the oceans contain 640 000 tonnes of abandoned fishing nets, accounting for a tenth of all ocean waste.

Scanning more coastlines

To further reduce this volume, Healthy Seas is also partnering Norsk Fiskeriretur AS, the recycling scheme for the Norwegian fishing and fish farming industry aimed at ensuring discarded fishing equipment is collected from various sites along the country’s coastline. The next step is to extend the pilot to the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

Instead of being landfilled or burned, as discarded fishing nets usually are, the Healthy Seas ‘catch’ is being made into a high-quality textile. ‘The ECONYL yarn is used to create new products like socks, swimwear, underwear, carpets, and so on,’ it says. This fulfils the project’s end-goal: ‘from waste to wear’.

Healthy Seas was founded last year by Italian plastics producer Aquafil, Dutch sock manufacturer Star Sock and the European Expertise Centre for Biodiversity and Sustainability (ECNC Group).


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