According to the United Nations, every year an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic pollution enters our oceans, and fishing nets (10% of all waste) are one of the most harmful forms of this destructive waste. More than 690 marine species are known to interact with marine litter. Turtles mistake floating plastic for jellyfish, and globally around one-third of all turtles are estimated to have eaten plastic in some form. The same is true for seabirds. Plastic also acts as a chemical magnet for environmental pollutants, such as metals, fertilizers, and persistent organic pollutants. These are adsorbed onto the plastic. When an animal eats the plastic “meal”, these chemicals make their way into their tissues and, in the case of commercial fish species, can make it into our dinner plates. Plastic waste is the scourge of our oceans, killing our wildlife, polluting our beaches, and threatening our food security. However, there are solutions!
On the coastline of Chile, the team behind Bureo Skateboards is helping out in style!The company uses some of these old fishing nets to make skateboard decks and sunglasses.
The three founders of Bureo – David Stover, Ben Kneppers and Kevin Ahearn – began working with the Chilean fishermen in 2013, after realizing that something had to be done about these abandoned nets. The team then set up a program called “Net Positiva” in late 2013. The program established net collection points, where fishermen can discard nets that they now consider useless for fishing. What is useless and over for some can be just the beginning for others. And the beginning takes multiple forms here. First of all, Bureo pays the local communities for every kilogram of fishing net collected. Such funds are administered by local NGO’s alongside with the leaders of local fishing syndicates. The idea is that the money be used on education and waste management programs aiming to prevent various forms of ocean plastic pollution.
Finally, the old nets are transported to a warehouse, sorted, shredded and melted down, before they are made into nylon pellets and injection-molded into Bureo’s signature fish-scale-patterned skateboards and sunglasses. One new skateboard requires 3 square meters of used nets.
Bureo, a word that comes from the native Mapuche Chilean language meaning “waves”, received seed funding from StartUp Chile and from IDEA, a Northeastern University’s venture accelerator fund. They have also received support from Patagonia’s “$20 Million and Change Fund", which was set up by the Patagonian founder Yvon Chouinard to support entrepreneurs who are “working with nature rather than using it up”.
Bureo is now looking to extend “Net Positiva” to fishing communities around the world, which will broaden the reach of its wave of positive change. We, here in Brazil, hope to see this wave coming soon to our shores!
by Maria Grazia Pennino