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Sealord recycling fishing nets

Less plastic to landfill with new recycling scheme

A new initiative by Sealord and Motueka Nets will see tonnes of expired nylon fishing nets diverted from landfill each year, and instead repurposed to create products such as ropes used in mussel farming.

Motueka Nets staff dismantle the nets, removing the hardware and steel chains for metal recycling in Nelson. They also remove the polyethylene rope for repurpose on farms and in domestic settings (such as gardening).

The remaining nylon netting is then collected until a container has been filled (an estimated 20-25 tonnes of nylon) for shipping to Europe for repurposing into a range of products. As at 20 July, the first container is close to being filled and its dispatch to Europe will mark the end of Sealord’s search for a feasible waste-reduction solution, says Sealord’s Fleet Harvest Manager Bill Healey.

“For about fifteen years we have been looking at ways to deal with midwater trawl nets that are no longer useful for fishing,” Bill says.

"The options were limited because of the composition of the nets – nylon, polyethylene and steel – a whole heap of stuff that meant without being dismantled that nets weren’t really fit for other purposes.”

Sealord has previously made the nets available for trial application as a type of mesh to stabilise riverbank plants, or as covers across silage pits. These trials didn’t work out as well as planned however, with Sealord going back to the drawing board for a better solution.

“We've had numerous companies look into the possibility of recycling, but nobody has come up with a feasible solution until now, so the only real option would have been to put it to landfill, which we wanted to avoid,” says Bill.

While the dismantling process is labour intensive, the Motueka Nets team have it down to a fine art, resulting in  99% of each net being able to be either recycled or repurposed, he says.

Motueka Nets Manager Josh Donker is delighted to extend his company’s life-cycle for the nets to a more circular model.

“We’re happy that we’ve got the connections and experience to find these solutions for Sealord. It’s something we’ll continue with, as we’re doing everything we possibly can to avoid components going to landfill.

“We are also now investigating polyethylene recycling, which will help our clients reduce their carbon footprint even further. Watch this space.”

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