Getting to grips with gear recycling

Gus Caslake, our Regional Manager in South West England, talks about fishing gear recycling in his local area.
Rob Thomson & Gus Caslake

Gear recycling is high on the agenda for fishing communities in South West England. In fact, it’s fair to say the region leading the way for the rest of the UK. 

As well as the benefits of recycling and reusing materials, there are potential savings against costs harbour authorities pay to dispose of old gear in landfill. This could be reflected in the price fishermen pay for harbour dues. With this in mind, we’ve been looking at recycling options for large and small ports.

For large ports, we partnered with Brixham Trawl Makers to carry out an economic analysis assessment. This looked at different types of fishing gear, what they are made of and how much it costs to recycle each component part. We also looked at a recycling system for a larger port and what facilities are needed to break trawls down so they can be recycled. 

Most fishing gear isn’t made of one type of material. Separating them out is a really important step which needs to happen before anything can be recycled. This can be very time consuming. It may take a net maker five or six hours to take a trawl apart. It’s not a simple process because you have to deal with badly rusted steel and compacted sand. 

Recycling costs vary depending on the type of materials used. The nylon used in gillnets has a relatively high value when recycled so it is a more cost-effective option. However, the polyethylene used in the majority of trawls has less value so recycling opportunities are more limited. Over the coming months we’ll be developing our work in this area, with a focus on the parts of gear that are not currently recycled. 

At the other end of the scale, we also wanted to figure out what a regional recycling system could look like. For this we teamed up with Rob Thomson of Odyssey Innovation. Alongside Morrisons, Seafish provided support for him to investigate net recycling solutions and set up a system for collecting and storing equipment from smaller ports.

Rob now has a number of collection points for end-of-life fishing nets across the South West. He arranges for to the nets to be transported to Plastix, a company in Denmark that specialises in recycling it. Depending on the quality and quantity of nets delivered this business model can pay for itself, with a recycling company fee covering the cost of transport. 

Collections are on hold due to Covid-19, so we are looking at other ways to continue the service. We have purchased skips which will be distributed to provide collection points for fishermen to drop off gear for recycling. We will share more information on this and our report on the work to develop a logistical system for smaller ports in coming weeks.

Further info

Find out more about marine litter and end-of-life fishing gear