Fishers and firm partner to turn old nets into PPE

Old fishing nets are a significant part of plastic pollution in our oceans. But Thai villagers are partnering with a local company to collect old fishing nets and turn them into personal protective equipment in the fight against the coronavirus.

“If no one bought my fishing nets, they would just pile up like a mountain,” said Anan Jaitang, a fisherman in Rayong province, in an article published on the World Economic Forum (WEF) website.

Anan is one of more than 100 artisanal fishermen from four coastal villages that have joined the project, run by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).

The Foundation pays the fishermen for their nets. It works with a local design company, Qualy, that recycles the material into face shields, disinfectant bottles, and other equipment to protect people from Covid-19 infection.

Thailand has one of the world’s largest fishing industries. The WEF puts the number of Thai commercial fishing ships at over 10,000, with over 50,000 small fishing vessels. Seven of the top ten countries responsible for ocean plastic pollution are in Asia.

While most of the pollution is composed of plastic products discarded by consumers, “ghost gear,” or discarded fishing equipment, is also a contributor. About 640,000 tons of fishing nets end up in the ocean globally every year, according to the United Nations.

“Any efforts to remove the nets from the ecosystem is welcome,” said Ukkrit Satapoomin, a Director at Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

EJF coordinators said that many Thai villagers are already environmentally aware, but aren’t sure what they can do to solve pollution problems. They need partners that can activate their desire to protect the ecosystem.

“I’ve seen the products, and I’m proud of my materials,” Anan, the fisherman, said, after examining protective gear made from his old nets. “At least it helps the society and saves the environment.”

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