You’re probably familiar with the concept of synthetic shirts, packs and more being made of recycled water bottles, milk jugs, etc. (like Shredly mountain bike apparel, many UPF sun shirts, even sunglasses), but Patagonia has a whole line of clothing and gear made of recycled fishing nets saved from an environmentally disastrous watery grave! It’s the Patagonia NetPlus line. Read on to learn why it’s a big deal.
The Negative Impact of Fishing Nets
It’s clothing! Made of recycled fishing nets! Mind-blowing, right? Like, how is that even possible? How does one brand offer such an expansive collection of, running shorts, cycling hats, an uber-popular line of shorts, so many things! But more importantly, why does it matter? Why are clothes made of fishing nets any different from clothes made of other recycled plastics?
Here’s why: Because according to extensive studies done on ocean plastic, discarded fishing nets are one of the most directly harmful forms of plastic pollution in our oceans.
Yes, plastic bags, straws, mylar balloons and microplastic particles are all the worst. But fishing nets may be the worst of the worst.
In fact, studies suggest that discarded nets now make up 10% of all marine plastics around the globe by volume, as in, there are more than 640,000 tons of nets dumped into the ocean every year. And they’ve been found to be 4x more harmful than other forms of plastic pollution due to their deadly potential. Nets trap all manner of ocean life indiscriminately, entangling marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, sharks and more, causing death by exhaustion and suffocation. Plus they damage important marine habitats like coral reefs when they get tangled in underwater ecosystems.
How Fishing Nets Can Be Recycled into Fabric
But there is good news: Fishing nets these days (as opposed to the nets made of natural material in ages past that were biodegradable) are made of a highly recyclable material that’s totally reusable given the proper application of technological manufacturing! And at least one company–Bureo–made it happen.
The company has a system: They buy old nets from local fishers in South America–tens of thousands of pounds per year, more than 3.5 million pounds so far. The, nets are cleaned and shredded, melted down into pellets, and turned into synthetic yarn, which is then woven into fabric and transformed into items like these Patagonia Baggies shorts. (Bureo partners with other brands, too, like Costa and Trek to make recycled fishing net sunnies and water bottle cages, respectively.)
Basically, they’re simultaneously removing these environmental hazards from waterways AND partnering with brands like Patagonia to provide a way for them to create new products out of recycled instead of virgin materials, which has a huge positive impact. We’re talking up to 88% less energy required to make some products out of recycled materials instead of virgin ones!
And Patagonia may have started partnering with Bureo on just material for hat brims, but this NetPlus fabric is now used for a wide variety of apparel and gear at Patagonia, from Baggies to rain jackets, hats to pants, my new favorite running shorts…The list goes on.
Then, you know, get out there, gird your loins in sustainable apparel, and wander on.
Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com