Net recycling pathways

It’s one thing finding and recovering lost fishing gear, it’s quite another to recycle it, writes Christine Grosart.

North Sea saturation diver Ally Mitchell created a pathway for the first time in the UK, for lost fishing nets to make their way from under the sea, through the hands of Ghost Fishing UK to the Ocean Recovery Project and Keep Britain Tidy, before heading through the machines at a factory right here in Britain.

The end result?

Beautiful plant pots, made from polypropylene, now on sale in Waitrose and John Lewis!

So how does it all work?

Ghost Fishing UK has a robust and unique ghost gear reporting system. One for scuba divers to report the lost fishing gear they see on their dives and one for fishermen to report any losses they know about.

Reports are critical. Without knowing where the ghost gear is, we cannot even begin the process of recovering it. Help from the fishermen is super important. Creels (lobster and crab pots) are very difficult to recycle so if fishermen can report their lost strings of pots to us, we can give them back and have done so on many occasions. It means we are not stuck with the difficulty of recycling or even worse, paying for landfill disposal – and fishermen get their expensive pots back for re-use.

So, that model is working. But what about the nets?

We get various types of nets reported to us. The most damaging to wildlife are the gill nets and monofilament nets. These are made out of nylon and we don’t currently have a facility to take them in the UK just yet, but we do know of a facility that is working on it.

So what do you do with them?

We are keeping the monofilament until a time comes that we can start regenerating it. It is much cleaner than polypropylene so normally artists take it away. We don’t have much at all at the moment.

And the polypropylene?

Working with Ally at Ocean Plastic Pots was the perfect model and together with Ghost Fishing UK, a steady stream of polypropylene net and rope that had the potential to harm ocean wildlife – or indeed, already had – could be turned into useful, beautiful products.

Net cleaning

Prior to recycling ghost gear need to be cleaned, sorted and prepared. We hold cleaning events several times a year at our base in Somerset.

This year the Ghost Fishing UK team were joined by Neil Hembrow of the Ocean Recovery Project. For many years he has been at the front line of recovering ocean plastic waste and getting it regenerated, recycled and disposed of in a way that keeps it out of the ocean.

Neil oversaw the net cleaning day and offered advice on quality control – what could and could not be used for recycling; how clean it had to be, along with ideal segregation ready for the factory.

James Palmer from renewable energy software company, Sennen, was one enthusiast who was keen to not only to raise funds for the charity, but get his team to roll up their sleeves and muck in.

Gaby Amiel, co-founder and CEO at Sennen told us, “This charity is doing brilliant things in the face of the very complex task of removing marine debris from UK waters and we’re pleased to be playing a small part in that. As a purpose-driven business with a team of people who are passionate about preserving the environment, this feels like the perfect match and we’re looking forward to getting stuck in to help with this important work.”

Would your company like to join Ghost Fishing UK?

With easy access via Castle Cary train station (direct line from Paddington) and plenty of parking, we can accommodate about twelve people who would like to help. You just need your wellies, old clothes and a sense of humour!

We provide all equipment such as goggles, gloves and all the tools you need. There is always a brew going and a good lunch!

James Palmer said “I really hope to see more companies recognising and supporting the work of Ghost Fishing UK. The more awareness that is raised of their work the better. The collective work of them and many other ocean clean-up charities is so vital to the protection of marine life, not just in UK waters, but globally. I think it is a fantastic charity and I am so pleased we found you to select as our chosen charity.”