Dirty, foul-smelling fishing nets clutter beaches, trap sea life and pollute the oceans. They take 600 years to decay and make up 10 percent of ocean debris. But today in dozens of fishing villages in Chile and the Philippines, old nets are becoming part of the solution.
American companies are recycling nylon from tons of nets collected in fishing villages along Chile’s Pacific coast and in the Philippines. Bureo, a California startup, turns them into fish-shaped skateboards, while Interface, the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpets, converts them into yarn for its floor tiles.
Both companies give fishermen a financial incentive to round up old nets while also funding community organizations that provide access to banking and other services. Both companies aim to scale up these enterprises in other parts of the world.
Bureo and Interface each have won the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) for sustainable oceans management. They’ll be honored January 5 with four other companies exemplifying the best of American values in the way they operate overseas.
Bureo is the brainchild of three outdoorsy guys who gave up corporate careers. In 2015, it recycled more than 80,000 kilograms of nets. Patagonia, the clothing giant known for its emphasis on sustainability, was an early backer.
It’s collected over 100,000 kilograms of nets so far, working with more than 900 fishing families in 27 villages in the Philippines, and has begun collecting nets in Cameroon.Interface, like Patagonia, already enjoys a reputation as a global leader in the corporate world on sustainability and in finding ways to reduce waste.
“We built the model so it can be replicated,” says Jon Khoo, a London-based innovation projects leader for Interface. “It’s a new way of tackling both an environmental and social problem. And it’s good for business.”
The other 2016 ACE winners are General Electric, for an all-female business center in Saudi Arabia; McDonald’s Germany, for hiring hundreds of refugees; Andela, which trains software developers in Lagos, Nigeria; and copper mining company Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde, majority owned by Freeport-McMoRan, for sharing a new wastewater treatment plant with the city of Arequipa, Peru.
This article was originally published on Share America.