I am sure that many of you have been moved by the recent sequences in Blue Planet II highlighting the devastating effects that plastic is having in our oceans. Although the production team removed all the plastic they came across, this pales in comparison to the amount that actually ends up in our oceans each year. One of the most devastating pieces of plastic waste that enters our ocean ecosystems are ghost nets. These are fishing nets that have unfortunately been lost, or accidentally left in the ocean by fishermen. They drift through the ocean, or stay anchored in place, where they entangle unsuspecting marine animals such as dolphins, sea turtles and sharks which drown when trapped.

This is where ‘Net-Works’ comes in: it is a unique partnership between Interface and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) which began in 2012. During this period, Interface were on the lookout for a source of material that would benefit communities, as well as the environment. At the same time, ZSL was in process of developing a new model of community-based conservation. Coupled together, this cultivated in Net-Works, which seeks to empower people in coastal communities in the developing world by the collection and wholesale selling of lost or discarded nylon fishing nets. The primary focus is to remove the nets from the ocean, thereafter helping local communities raise money to increase their standard of living. The nets gathered are eventually recycled into yarn to make carpet tile, after entering the global supply chain.

“Fishing nets that have been lost can drift through the ocean, entangling unsuspecting marine life”

Adding to the issue is the fact that we currently live in a throwaway culture, and unfortunately not everyone has the means to recycle their waste. Moreover, not all plastic can be recycled, so alternative uses for the waste has to be found. This can only occur through innovations and outside-the-box thinking, as demonstrated through Net-Works. You can help too by cutting down on the amount of plastic you use, and doing more to recycle.

Since the start of the unlikely partnership, over 142 metric tons of waste nets have been removed from the oceans through Net-Works. Currently, the program only operates in Cameroon and the Philippines, but there are ambitions to push things even further and scale up. This could very well be the starting point of the removal of billions of tons of plastic waste currently found in our oceans!