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Aquafil, Star Sock to Turn Fishing Nets into Socks

Nylon polymer manufacturer Aquafil, sock company Star Sock, and the European Centre for Nature Conservation Land & Sea Group have launched an initiative to remove marine litter — in particular used fishing nets — and recycle it into yarn to make carpeting, socks, underwear, swimwear and other textiles.

The Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear aims to improve seas’ health and keep recovered fishing nets out of landfills. A joint report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and UN Environment Programme says there are about 640,000 tons of abandoned fishing nets in the oceans, accounting for one-tenth of all marine litter.

The three partners say they will recycle the marine waste into Econyl yarn, which will then be used to create new products. In 2011, Aquafil started the Econyl Regeneration System project, which turns nylon waste from products including carpets, clothing and fishing nets into raw material.

The Healthy Seas Initiative will include three main phases; the organizations say they will publish an action plan before the end of April.

The first phase will cover three pilot regions in Europe: the North Sea (Netherlands and Belgium), the Adriatic Sea (Italy, Slovenia and Croatia) and the Mediterranean Sea (Spain). After completing the first phase, the organizations will identify the most efficient practices to use when they expand the initiative.

The second phase will identify effective procedures to discourage abandoning fishing nets at sea. It will also make available, encourage and facilitate responsible handling of fishing nets at the end of their life, allowing their recovery and regeneration into new products. The initiative’s expansion to other areas will be part of this second phase.

During the third phase, the partners will draft proposals that include actions governments can take to encourage marine waste removal and recycling. They will then submit the proposals to lawmakers.

Additionally, the organizations will establish a Healthy Seas Fund, which will support activities that raise awareness about the importance of healthy seas, clean up marine litter and finance other coastal projects.

The Healthy Seas initiative is the latest of several efforts to recycle marine waste into new products. Earlier this month, Ecover and Closed Loop Recycling said they will begin using plastic collected from the seas to create recyclable plastic bottles for the green cleaning product company. In January, carpet tile manufacturer Interface and conservation charity the Zoological Society of London expanded a pilot project that turns discarded fishing nets into recycled material for carpet tiles.

In the fall of 2012, cleaning product maker 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.

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