How do you turn fishing nets into face shields?
A new community-based project in Thailand is paying local fishermen to collect discarded nylon nets. These are then recycled and made into brand new medical gear.
It’s a solution that is both lucrative and environmentally friendly.
[Thai fisherman Anan Jaitang says:] "I've seen the products, and I'm proud of my materials (being part of them). At least it helps society and saves the environment."
Anan Jaitang, along with other Thai fishermen, used to pile tattered nylon fishing nets on the beach after they became torn by hauls of wiggling crabs.
The nets would then be carried by waves out to the sea.
[Environmental Justice Foundation campaigner, Ingpat Pakchairatchakul, says:] "This is, like, a very dangerous action because these nets, if they are left on beaches, they could fall into the ocean and they could just drift for decades, entangling animals like dolphins, sea turtles, dugongs or even coral reefs."
Globally, over 640,000 tons of fishing nets end up in oceans every year.
Thailand, with 50,000 small fishing vessels and 10,000 commercial vessels, is one of the world's largest fishing industries. It’s also one of the world's top plastic polluters.
Year after year, hundreds of endangered sea animals wash up on Thai beaches after being trapped in nets or ingesting marine plastics.
The new project, by the Environmental Justice Foundation, provides an economic incentive for local fishermen to help stem the flow of fishing nets into the oceans.
It has collected more than 1.3 tons of used nets since it piloted two months ago.
The project is also partnering with Thai design company Qualy, which makes lifestyle products from recycled materials.
[Qualy marketing director, Thosaphol Suppametheekulwat, says:] "This is our latest product. It's a push and spray (device), freshly minted from the factory. One side is a touch screen pointer that you can use to push things and on the other side, it's a spray."
Over the past months, Qualy has shredded 1,500 pounds of nets to make
alcohol spray bottles
and push sticks for elevator buttons and ATM machines to avoid contact.
"During the first week of sales, we've sold over 100,000 of them (push sticks) while the face shield came out later on. They've both become 'new normal' products that people will use in their daily lives."