Why are waste fishing nets a problem?
According to a joint report by the FAO and UNEP, an estimated 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are left in our oceans each year, accounting for one-tenth of all marine litter. These nets, sometimes called “ghost fishing nets”, can often be found on and around shipwrecks. These nets remain in the marine ecosystem for hundreds of years. Many marine animals are captured and killed in the nets, and this has a negative effect on marine ecosystems.
Are waste fishing nets the biggest waste problem for seas and oceans?
Waste fishing nets are part of the massive amount of litter in seas and oceans. Plastic marine debris – also called ‘plastic soup’ – is now found in every ocean on our planet. Plastic marine debris comes from fishing gear, offshore platforms and ships. However, around 80 per cent comes from the land – litter that is washed into rivers and out to seas and oceans. The illegal dumping of garbage in seas and oceans is also a problem.
If the plastic-soup problem is so huge, why focus on waste fishing nets?
Waste fishing nets often are found on shipwrecks, which form breeding places for sea life, especially in areas where there is intensive human activity, such as fisheries. The localized nature of nets creates ecological problems for ecosystems and species, but allows focused recovery actions. The killing of marine animals by waste fishing nets illustrates to the wider public very well the problem caused by dumping litter in the sea. The Healthy Seas initiative focuses on waste fishing nets in the first phase, but will expand towards other marine litter in the future.
What makes the Healthy Seas initiative unique?
There are several important initiatives to clean up and safeguard the seas. The Healthy Seas initiative is special for various reasons: it is a joint venture of non-governmental organizations and businesses to clean the oceans and seas. The nets that are collected as part of the Healthy Seas initiative are not dumped into landfills or burned in waste processing facilities. Instead, it is recycled in order to create high-quality products. Sustainability is the focus, from both the environmental and economic point of view. Healthy Seas brings many stakeholders and initiatives together: divers, fishermen, shipping companies, NGOs, governments, and recycling and production companies, creating new products such as socks, swimwear and carpets.
How can I help?
You can help in many ways. For instance, by telling your family, friends and business contacts about the Healthy Seas initiative, and why it is so important to stop polluting the seas and oceans with our litter. You can organize local actions to remove litter from the seas and beaches. If you are a qualified diver and have safe equipment, you can assist in removing waste nets from the sea. You can also assist in local awareness activities and actions. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer in one of the pilot regions (the North Sea, the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea), for instance in assisting to remove the nets around shipwrecks, please contact us.
What do you do with the recovered fishing nets?
We collect and store the waste nets in the countries in the Healthy Seas pilot regions until they are transported to the Aquafil plant in Ajdovscina, Slovenia. At this plant the nets are cleaned and the residue is sent to other recycling facilities.
How is the recycling done?
The cleaned fishing nets are delivered to a plant in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where they are prepared for the ECONYL® Regeneration System. The recycling in Slovenia is an innovative process to regenerate waste fishing nets and make nylon yarn. The regenerated nylon yarn is called ECONYL® and has the same qualities as virgin nylon from fossil raw material. ECONYL® is a trademark of Aquafil, a company based in Arco, Italy.
What products are made from ECONYL® yarn?
Many products can be made with ECONYL® yarn: swimwear, underwear, high-tech clothing and sportswear. Also, you can find ECONYL® carpet tiles and carpet flooring at different suppliers in both Europe and the USA.
Do recycled nylon yarn textiles shed more microfibres when washed than virgin nylon yarn textiles?
The only difference between recycled ECONYL® yarn and regular nylon yarn is its origin, the fact that it is 100% regenerated from waste. There are no other differences in performance or quality. All fibres lose tiny particles when they are washed. We are fully aware of this problem and follow the latest research on this issue. We carefully monitor all the materials that we incorporate into our products and use in our production processes. Also, it is worth mentioning that fishnets ultimately lead to microplastic debris if they are left in the water for a long time, so it is better for the environment to recover them and regenerate them into new yarn.