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Interface Turns Fishing Nets into Carpet

Carpet tile manufacturer Interface and conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are expanding a pilot project that turns discarded fishing nets into recycled material for carpet tiles.

The partners say their program, called Net-Works, also provides socio-economic benefits for coastal communities.

In the pilot’s first month, Filipino fishermen and their families collected one ton of fishing net from the sand and sea, where nets can harm the environment and marine life. The fishermen cleaned up beaches in four communities near Danajon Bank, a threatened coral reef in the Philippines.

Most nylon from these fishing nets is the same material used to make carpet yarn, and Interface says the collection effort will help it reduce its use of virgin raw materials.

According to the carpet company’s most recent sustainability report, 44 percent of the raw materials Interface used in 2011 were from recycled or bio-based sources, up from 40 percent in 2010, 4 percent in 2004 and just 1 percent in 1996.

Interface and ZSL say Net-Works operations are now scaling up, with the intention of developing commercial carpet tiles incorporating the collected nets later this year.

Collection systems will now be set up in at least 15 villages, involving more than 280 impoverished households. The goal is to collect 20 tons of nets by the end of April, which will generate funds for the communities where, according to the partners, family incomes are typically less than $157 a month.

ZSL says it will continue to monitor the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the project in 2013, and will explore opportunities to expand the partnership to other parts of the world. It also plans to develop a toolkit to help other groups and organizations establish Net-Works supply hubs.

In the fall of 2012, cleaning product company Method launched a two-in-one hand and dish soap that comes in bottles made from plastic recovered from the ocean, blended with post-consumer recycled plastic. Scientists estimate that several million tons of plastic make their way into the oceans every year, polluting the environment and hurting marine life, Method says.

In November, Environmental Leader reported that Schnitzer Steel is working with fishermen to recycle unusable heavy equipment such as nets. Schnitzer is working with waste-to-energy company Covanta to extract the nets’ steel components and recycle them into new products, while Covanta is using much of the non-steel components to create electricity.

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