Fishing Gear Recycling Reaches 1M Pounds

Net Your Problem
Nets on the hill behind Westward Seafoods at Dutch Harbor. Photo courtesy of Net Your Problem LLC.

Net Your Problem, a Seattle-based company whose goal is recycling end-of-life fishing gear into new products, has reached the one-million-pound mark with its latest collection of old discarded nets at Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

“I feel like I am just cracking the ice on what’s available,” said Nicole Baker, the founder, Pacific Northwest division coordinator and recycler liaison for NYP. “I’ve only been doing this in a couple of places in Alaska primarily, and we have the whole rest of the U.S. to go.”

The former North Pacific groundfish fisheries observer first became interested in recycling discarded commercial fishing gear a couple of years after she finished her work as an observer, when she heard about a Danish company that was recycling old fish nets into new products.

“And I thought if they are recycling nets, I know where there are a lot of them,” she said.

These days Baker, a research scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, is expanding her efforts as somewhat of a town crier for keeping all that gear out of landfills.

NYP recently received funding for its proposal to the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s “Salish Synergy” to divert some beach plastic collected from the Washington state coastline to the Canadian nonprofit Ocean Legacy Foundation to mechanically recycle some of the debris collected in beach cleanups and get it back into the plastic supply chain.

Plans are for the beach debris to be transported to British Columbia for the Ocean Legacy Foundation to recycle in April, Baker said.

Net Your Problem
Erin Adams, left, of Net Your Problem, a Seattle-based company with the goal of recycling end-of-life fishing gear into new products, has reached the one-million pound mark with its latest collection of old discarded nets at Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Net Your Problem LLC.

NYP is also working with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Washington CoastSavers, an alliance dedicated to keeping the state’s beaches clean of marine debris, to sort out certain plastics, warehouse them and then transport them to the Ocean Legacy Foundation, which has been working for several years on commercializing a recycling process for marine debris. Having the recycling option for specific plastics gathered from the shoreline, NYP also plans to begin offering broker services for this variety of plastic.

While many plastics that wash up on beaches are usable for mechanical recycling, others will require sorting. NYP will be working with Western Washington University’s Plastics and Composites Engineering Program and Washington SeaGrant on this challenge, according to NYP’s September online newsletter.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in Texas, and I have Oregon on my radar too,” Baker said.

This past summer NYP also received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to identify recycling solutions for gear approaching end of life that is impacting ecosystems and habitats in the Florida Keys, including coral reefs.

Baker’s research efforts recently included dissecting a small old fishing net and splitting it into its components on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Now the trick is to figure out an economical way to recycle each of those components.

“We worked with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and NET Systems on Bainbridge Island,” Baker said. “We figured out how many hours it takes (to do this), how much it costs and what we have to do to separate the different types of plastic from the metal and rubber in trawl nets. We wrote a report about that and made it available in case anyone else wants to know it.”