Odyssey Innovation: Developing a circular solution to give recycled gear a new life

Odyssey Innovation was born out of owner Rob Thompson’s passion to rid the seas of plastic pollution. The company works with a range of stakeholders in South West England to find a circular solution to end-of-life and recovered abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear. It arranges for material to be collected and processed so that recycled plastic can used to create a range of kayaks and accessories.

Rob’s marine conservation journey started in 2014 when he established the Fathoms Free volunteer group - a movement of people from all walks of life eager to take action to clean up marine litter. They set out to raise awareness and undertake regular marine plastic and ghost gear retrieval dives and beach cleans.

The concept for recycling marine plastic into kayaks and other products came from a need to resolve three recurring obstacles encountered while conducting ocean clean-up activities:

  • How to access inaccessible coves, estuaries and other areas not frequented by regular beach cleaners;
  • How to effectively manage the plastics generated through clean-up operations; and
  • How to fund the running costs of doing this. 

Rob came up with an ambitious plan to combine these problems and use the circular economy to create a workable solution. With support from Seafish and Morrisons, he founded Odyssey Innovation to collaborate with a wide range of organisations – including the Ocean Recovery Project, charities and NGOs, government bodies, the fishing industry, recyclers, manufacturers, innovators and businesses – to find sustainable solutions to tackle marine plastic pollution.

Rob identified logistics, a lack of regional facilities and the high cost of dismantling nets as the greatest obstacles to improving the waste management and recycling of fishing gear. Some ports in South West England have insufficient storage space for large quantities of nets, and/or poor access for larger collection vehicles. This means that it’s not always possible to facilitate bulk logistics, removing economies of scale and increasing the unit cost to ports.

Odyssey Innovation tackles this by using a series of centralised drop-off points where end-of-life nets and ropes can be stored for collection. These materials are then transported from ports to reception facilities to be prepared for processing. This means that ports don’t have to set aside as much storage space for waste and even small ports, which might lack suitable infrastructure or access for heavy goods vehicles, can still participate in the scheme making it more accessible throughout the region.

The material is then sent to Plastix, the only identified specialist recycler in Europe that can currently deal with this material, to be recycled. Some of the recycled material is then bought back and used to create the kayaks to be sold at a profit, which is used to fund the gear collection and clean up schemes.

Thanks to support provided by Odyssey Innovation, fishing ports at Newquay and St Ives now recycle up to 60% of their fishing gear.

Further info

Visit the Odyssey Innovation website

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