Fishing net recovery trials show potential for closing the loop

A pilot project to manufacture products from recycled fishing nets has been deemed a success out in Ireland and could pave the way for a commercially viable closed loop process.

The collaboration between Bord Iascaigh Mhara (Irish Sea Fisheries Board) and Liverpool-based plastics recycler Centriforce Products worked with polyethylene nets and related items such as rope and twine collected from ports across Ireland.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara is striving to find ways of preventing hundreds of tonnes of gillnets from going to landfill or being illegally dumped.

Having successfully proven a process for recycling nylon gear, it teamed up with Green Marine Recycling, GEOLINE and Centriforce to refine the process.

According to Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s gear technologist Myles Mulligan, a process had already been established for cleaning and transporting the polyethylene netting to be extruded into pellets suitable for product manufacture.

“To further the research and development of this particular material, it was necessary to find a specialist manufacturer who was prepared to assess, test and attempt to make a useable product from it,” he said.

“This particular material had been unproven and other plastic industry manufacturers had expressed an unwillingness to work with it. However, Centriforce expressed an interest in the project and subsequently gave a commitment to endeavour to develop the recycled fishing net pellet into a marketable product.”

Centriforce has managed to remanufacture the material into polyethylene sheeting, which incorporates up to 75% of the recycled fishing gear along with 25% of other recyclables.

Centriforce’s managing director Simon Carroll, said that the end product was similar to the company’s popular Stokbord recycled plastic sheeting lines.

“We have successfully demonstrated a means of closing the loop’on a serious issue for the marine environment,” he commented.

“We are continuing to examine ways of taking the project further and looking at other potential products that can be manufactured from the recycled material.”

This pilot builds on the pioneering work being done by Interface on converting old recovered fishing nets into yarn for its carpet tiles.

The manufacturer intends to scale up its Net-Works scheme with conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which aims to establish a community-based supply chain for discarded nets, to improve the livelihood of local fishermen, while providing Interface with a source of recycled materials for its products.

Maxine Perella

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