Plastics in recycled fishing nets are being turned into an amazing array of products around the globe and Alaska plans to get in on the action.
An Alaska Net Hack Challenge is being planned for September 8 and 9 in Anchorage and Kodiak. It aims to identify opportunities for the tons of old nets piled up in landfills and storage lots across the state.
“The purpose of the program is to change how people look at fishing nets and ropes. Instead of looking at them as waste materials, hopefully, they will start seeing them as a valuable resource and materials they can use in a different way.”
Nicole Baker is a former fisheries observer and founder of www.netyourproblem.com.
Last summer she spearheaded a Dutch Harbor project that shipped about 40 nets weighing nearly 240,000 pounds to a company called Plastix in Denmark. The nets were melted down, pelletized and resold to manufacturers of plastic products.
“Socks are being made from recycled fishing nets, water bottles, cell phone cases, carpets, bathing suits, sneakers, sunglasses, skateboards, rugs, bowls, even 3-D printing and injection molds. People are becoming so creative about finding ways to reuse these plastic products.”
The Alaska Net Hack Challenge is based on the Circular Ocean program in the U.K. and Iceland.
Co-organizers include the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative (AOCI) and retired University of Alaska seafood specialist Brian Himelbloom in Kodiak.
Teams will work with piles of old nets to design prototype products that will be judged creativity, usefulness and scalability.
Video conferencing also will be available for other interested communities.
The goal is to get some of the projects commercially viable through the AOCI’s Blue Economy push that helps develop products to their final stages.
A Net Hack Challenge website will be up and running within a few weeks. In the interim, emails to email@example.com is the contact point.
Meanwhile, Nicole Baker will be back in Dutch Harbor this month and also at St. Paul to collect and ship out more nets. Her goal is to top last year’s seven containers.