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UK recycles fishing nets

Revolutionary scheme sees fishing nets recycled in the UK for the first time
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
UK recycles fishing nets

Environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy has teamed up with plastic processing experts Milspeed on a ground-breaking project to develop the large-scale recycling of fishing nets in the UK.

Each year, it’s estimated that 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets end up as plastic waste in our oceans.

In addition to being hazardous for boats, these nets can continue to ‘ghost fish’ for up to 600 years, with countless fish, dolphins and seals killed after getting trapped in them.

It is hoped that installing a free UK recycling service at harboursides will encourage the recycling of both nets and ropes.

UK recycling scheme

Since March 2020, Keep Britain Tidy and Milspeed have been working together to develop the project and, to date, more than 40 tonnes of trawl net has been turned into recycled plastic pellets that can be resold to the market.

This is the only fully UK-based trawl net recycling scheme; prior to launch, the only options were sending the nets to landfill or exporting them to Europe for recycling.

There are huge environmental and economic benefits to having a UK recycling scheme and it is hoped that, over time, it can be rolled out to more harbours around the country. 

‘We are thrilled to be involved in this revolutionary net reprocessing scheme where we are able to utilise our 20+ years of reprocessing expertise creating high-performing pellets from ‘tricky to re-use’ polymers.

‘We have been incorporating ocean waste into our footwear products for four years now but we look forward to using this scheme to upscale and encourage the use of ocean waste in a variety of industries. I believe it is localised synergies like this which will prove vital in creating a more sustainable future.’

Business development manager at Milspeed, based in the Cotswolds

Tackling plastic pollution

Keep Britain Tidy’s Ocean Recovery Project enables communities and volunteers to play their part in reducing the amount of marine plastic polluting our environment.

Brixham Harbour, managed by Torbay Harbour Authority, is home to one of the UK’s largest fishing fleets.

To date, the harbour has contributed most nets (around 30 tonnes) to the Ocean Recovery Project. The nets then only had to travel 154 miles from the harbour to be recycled.

Working with partners, the scheme is now being rolled out to Scarborough and Whitby in the North-East and has removed tonnes of material from Dunbar in Scotland this year.

‘It’s fantastic that so many partners have supported the development of new recycling techniques here in the UK.

‘We want to support multiple organisations, fishermen, harbour authorities and beach cleaners by giving them an opportunity to recycle fishing nets and rope in the UK. This is an important step to reducing nets in our oceans by working with industry and lowering the carbon miles of transported recycled materials.’

Keep Britain Tidy’s Ocean Recovery Project

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