The Healthy Seas initiative aims to bring together businesses, NGOs, divers, fishermen and other stakeholders to recover fishing nets and recycle them into yarn that can be used for a wide range of textile products, including carpets, swimwear, underwear, high-tech clothing and sportswear.

Under the initiative, a series of pilots are being carried out across Europe and work is underway in the North Sea where more than 20 tons of nets have been collected so far.

The next phase of activity will recover and recycle nets from the Adriatic Sea (Italy, Slovenia and Croatia) and the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition, an education programme is planned to discourage fishers from abandoning their nets and to promote responsible disposal of used nets.

According to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there are approximately 640,000 tonnes of abandoned fishing nets in the oceans, accounting for one-tenth of all marine litter.

These discarded nets can remain in the sea for centuries continuing to catch or injure marine life such as fish, dolphins, turtles and marine birds – known as ghost fishing.

Interface vice president and chief innovations officer Nigel Stansfield said: “We are strong advocates of scavenging waste from one industry for use in another, and see this as a natural extension of the work we are already doing within our own business to convert waste into valuable raw materials for new products”.

Joining the initiative builds on Interface’s current work on reducing the impact of discarded nets in the ocean. In June 2012, the company teamed up with conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to tackle the problem in some of the world’s poorest coastal communities.

Leigh Stringer

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