Until recently, there were two possible destinations for fishing nets once they reached the end of their short working lives. They would either become landfill fodder or be tossed into the sea, adding to the plastic polution that is wreaking havoc on our oceans’ biodiversity. Fortunately, there’s now a happier ending. Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated people, these nets can be recycled into a high quality material that can be used for different purposes, one of which is to produce the POPSICASE.
We are always looking for ways to reduce our ecological footprint, so POPSICASE is made from a material that comes from discarded nylon fishing nets.
1. The fishing nets
A woman repairs a fishing net in the port of Vilanova
Fishing nets are usually made of nylon or cotton. Nylon is widely used as it’s both inexpensive and highly durable, but it can have a devastating impact on marine life. When discarded into the ocean, these nets take hundreds of years to decompose. On a happier note, the nylon fishing nets have become the raw material used to manufacture POPSICASE.
Andreu and Amine review the nets they have used the night before.
It’s 10am in the port of Vilanova, and Andreu Nuñez, skipper of the Àvia Barrineta, is inspecting hundreds of metres of nylon net used the night before to catch fish. Together with Amine, an employee from Senegal and an old hand at this trade, he carefully analyses every inch of the net’s surface. They’re not just looking for big holes, but also checking the nets’ elasticity, brightness and transparency. After months of use, the nets lose these qualities, making it easier for fish to see them and to escape.
Today Andreu has decided that a large part (about 100m2) of the net needs to be discarded. He removes this section, and so begins the POPSICASE journey.
We visited fishermen in Vilanova to see how they selected and discarded old nets. They loved the POPSICASE project.
2. Separating the nets
There are an increasing number of containers along the Spanish coastline where old nets can be deposited. These containers are periodically emptied by a company that separates and recycles them. The first step is labour intensive—the containers are filled with ropes, nets and metal, all of which has to be separated by hand.
Fishing nets in a container.
The separation process is key to the quality of POPISCASE. Each type of net has a specific melting temperature, and mixing these materials would compromise the quality of the final product. To see this process in action, we visited Textile Massanes, the company in charge of collecting, sorting, cutting and washing the nets.
Pablo visited Textil Massanes, the company that recycles the nets
Once cut and washed, the material is transformed into pellets (plastic granules), which are then injected into the POPSICASE mold. This is done by Eko-REC, a group of professionals dedicated to researching recycling methods.
Net Positiva Mediterránea is an initiative that was started by “three crazy gringos”, as they call themselves, in a small village in Chile. Their company, Bureo, produces skateboards from recycled fishing nets, and inspired us to replicate their model to create an eco-friendly phone case.