Ghost Fishing UK goes potty for plastic

Ocean conservation charity Ghost Fishing UK has teamed up with award winning innovators Ocean Plastic Pots in the first recycling initiative of its kind in the UK.

The charity consists entirely of volunteers, most of whom are scuba divers, who give up their free time to survey and recover lost fishing gear.

Despite several initiatives on the continent, meaning shipping filthy fishing gear across Europe for sorting, cleaning and recycling, Ghost Fishing UK were keen to find a solution on our home soil.

In a stroke of luck, charity trustee Christine Grosart came across Ally Mitchell at work and an idea grew.

Glasgow based Ally had been involved in the salvage of tonnes of plastic pieces from a grounded vessel off the coast of Scotland. He wanted to see if he could make something from the plastic waste. After a few experiments, Ocean Plastic Pots was born.

Christine explains, “Ally was a saturation diver – a deep sea diver working in the north sea. I was the medic onboard the same dive vessel and to me, he was just another diver. That was until one day when he asked to speak to me – in his high pitched, Mickey Mouse voice, caused by all the helium he was breathing at -150 metres! Luckily I speak ‘helium’ and he was insanely excited to tell me all about this new idea he had about turning fishing nets into plant pots.

“His business was still in its infancy but I was super keen to send some of our polypropylene nets his way. It had been recovered from the ocean by the volunteer divers at Ghost Fishing UK and stored, awaiting a recycling pathway.

“No such pathway existed in the UK at the time and only specific types of material were being accepted for upcycling – and that had to be shipped across Europe.

“This meant that the large majority of our nets could not be recycled. Until now.”

Polypropylene was the waste material from lost fishing nets that nobody wanted. But to Ally, it was extremely valuable as his plant pots are made entirely from polypropylene.

He took the lion’s share of the haul of ghost nets that Ghost Fishing UK recovered from 2021, which comprised 16 survey and 19 recovery dives, resulting in 180 individual dives by the volunteers.

Approximately 1000 kg of ghost gear was recovered by the team in 2021 and a staggering 1840 kg this year.

The Ghost Fishing UK volunteers are poised to undergo another mammoth effort sorting and cleaning the nets they recovered this year, ready for recycling and transformation into yet more award winning plant pots.

Ally said, “As a diver, I’ve been a long time supporter of Ghost Fishing UK. I was delighted to be able to recycle their recovered ghost nets from the sea and put them into our products, which benefit the environment.”

Ally has gone a step further and trained with the Ghost Fishing UK team, putting his background in commercial diving to good use. He is in a unique position to see the process through right from underwater recovery to the final end product.

“We’re delighted here at Ghost Fishing UK to see Ocean Plastic Pots going from strength to strength, turning lost fishing nets found on beaches, shipwrecks and reefs, into award winning plant pots. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have this wonderful partnership,” Christine said.

Ghost fishing is the term used when lost or abandoned fishing gear continues to fish, round the clock, catching and killing animals that will never be landed.

Lost fishing gear is estimated to make up almost half of the Great Pacific Garbage patch, for example.

Ocean Plastic Pots has won awards at the Chelsea Flower Show and Ghost Fishing UK has won the Plastic Free Awards and Fishing News Awards for their ocean clean-up efforts.

Ocean Plastic Pots was also a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award for Sustainability and Innovation.

Stuck for a Christmas present this year? Ocean Plastic Pots are on sale now at Waitrose and John Lewis stores, or you can buy directly.