Global carpet tile manufacturer Interface and conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have rolled out an initiative to tackle the growing problem of discarded fishing nets in some of the world’s poorest coastal communities.
Called Net-Works, the project involves the collection of discarded nets, which have a detrimental effect on the environment and marine life, from the beaches and sea. These are then used by Interface as a source of recycled nylon for its carpet tiles.
A pilot project was conducted between June and October last year to test the viability of the initiative. Working closely with local communities and NGOs, Net-Works established the infrastructure to collect the fishing nets, gathering 1,000 kg of nets in the first month and cleaning up the beaches in four local communities near Danajon Bank, a threatened coral reef in the centre of the Philippines.
The next step is to scale up the operation, with the aim of developing commercial carpet tiles incorporating the collected nets later this year. Collection systems will be set up in at least 15 local villages, involving more than 280 impoverished households - equivalent of 1,400 people based on an average household size of five. The goal is to collect 20 tonnes of nets by the end of April, which should generate funds directly for communities.
Nigel Stansfield, chief innovation officer at Interface says, “It is really gratifying to see that the concept we’ve developed with ZSL works and promises so much. At Interface, we are designing for a higher purpose - and feel a sense of responsibility beyond the products we sell. The collected fishing nets have a nylon that can be recycled directly back into our carpet tiles, which will help us reduce our use of virgin raw materials and, critically, create livelihood opportunities for local communities. We are now looking forward to expanding operations and delivering the first carpet tiles from our collaboration.”
Dr Nick Hill of ZSL says, “Net-Works has been greeted with a huge amount of enthusiasm and interest from the local communities around Danajon Bank. This was clearly seen by the number of people interested in participating in the project and turning out to clear the beaches of discarded nets. Nets are very light, and we always knew our target of collecting one tonne of nets from such a small number of communities was going to be a challenge – so we’re delighted that we have been able to achieve this. It is still early and we will be monitoring both the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the project over the coming year, but the signs are there that these impacts will be positive.”
During 2013, Interface and ZSL will explore opportunities to expand their partnership to other parts of the world. They also plan to develop a toolkit to help other groups and organisations establish Net-Works supply hubs.