Recently, straws have been a hot topic regarding ocean pollution. People have crusaded to stop the use of single-use plastic straws and company’s are listening. This is a huge win, however, are plastic straws really the biggest worry to ocean pollution? While single-use plastic materials such as straws do make up a large part of the plastic in the ocean, fishing supplies seem to be an even bigger problem. In October 2018, The Huffington Post reported that “drinking straws are thought to make up less than 1 percent” of the massive amount of debris in the ocean, while” commercial fishing fleets lose or abandon more than 700,000 tons of plastic nets, lines and traps”. That means that lost or abandoned fishing supplies make up about 10 percent of the plastic waste in the ocean. Yes, we should continue to do our part by properly throwing away our waste and avoid using single-use plastic materials, but there are bigger problems.
Problems With Fishing Gear
Fishing items that are lost or abandoned are often referred to as “ghost gear”. This gear, especially nets, kill marine life by animals getting trapped and entangled. When I think of ghost gear, I think of the many fishing shows or videos I have seen where fisherman pull up what seems like never-ending nets to look for the catch that they want to keep while searching through other dead marine life such as sharks, turtles, and fish. What is even worse is that these nets are left to entangle countless sea creatures with no one there to help them get free. Many of the fishing items that are lost or abandoned at sea are not even registered so they cannot be traced back to the original owner for accountability.
What Are People Doing About It?
Retrieving nets from the ocean is tedious work and often takes a lot of manpower and time to do successfully. However, there are some organizations who do retrieve these nets and recycle them into a variety of clothes and other items. Aquafil is the name of a company who takes nets from the ocean and turns them into environmentally friendly products. Aquafil has designed a yarn from melting the plastic from waste, including ocean waste like fishing nets, called Econyl that is a virgin nylon yarn used to make quality fashion and home products. This company is focused on sustainability and has made it a mission to do what they can to help our environment. It is nice to see a company that has such a passion for sustainability and is committed to helping clean our oceans while turning our waste into something good.