Off the coast of Catolonia, an intriguing experiment in the circular economy is taking place. Dozens of fishing vessels are heading out to sea and bringing back tonnes of plastic waste alongside their usual haul.
The plastic is then used as the raw material to make recycled designer sunglasses for Barcelona-based company, Sea2See.
Thanks to agreements with 22 Catalonian port authorities, the company helps fishermen across the region bring in around a tonne of plastic waste every three days.
About 10 kilograms of waste are collected for each pair of glasses it sells. Sea2See separates what it can use for the glasses and the rest is sold off to other companies for use in different processes like manufacturing nylon thread.
More than 90 per cent of the material the fishermen collect can be recycled, though items such as metallic ship ropes prove difficult, the company’s founder Francois Van den Abeele says. Usable plastic is reformed into pellets which are then melted and used to make the glasses by Sea2See’s partner in Italy.
“Fishermen have had a bad reputation for contributing to ocean pollution by discarding their nets, so they are really proud to be a part of what we are doing,” Van den Abeele tells The Independent. “The aim is that everything that goes out to sea comes back to shore which is not what has always happened before,”
The nets that trawling boats frequently leave in the sea, act as magnets for the 8 million tonnes of plastic detritus estimated to be thrown into the world’s oceans each year. They create islands of waste that trap hundreds of thousands of sea mammals and fish. Plastic is also ingested by aquatic animals, such as sea turtles, who mistake it for viable food.
“I’ve lived a lot of my life by the sea, around the oceans,” Van den Abeele says. “So I’ve been aware of the problem for some time.”
Van den Abeele worked for many years making documentaries in places like Angola, which at…