Seas haunted by ghost nets

It may seem like a title straight out of a horror film, but it is not. Each year, tonnes of fishing nets and fishing gear are abandoned in the ocean all over the world. This is not a movie: the terror is real.

Whether intentionally abandoned because of being damaged or accidentally lost among the waves, these nets end up as traps in which marine life can become entangled.

Nets, ropes and plastic tools used in fishing
These ghost nets are not the only ones haunting the oceans; there are also several ropes and plastic tools used in fishing that are left behind every year.

It is estimated that abandoned nets and fishing ropes, as well as some other fishing-related materials, represent 27% of all litter found in the seas and oceans of the world.

What if these could be “fished” out of the sea, and reused for something effectively useful?

Recycled ghosts become shopping carts

We have brought to you several stories of products made with plastic collected from the seas and oceans, from socks made of fishing nets to clothes made of garbage picked out of the sea, or packaging made out of marine litter, as well as many ecodesign stories that actually make a difference.

An example of such a story that makes a difference is happening right now in Poland, powered by the biggest chain of supermarkets in the country, with more than 3,100 stores. Biedronka is leading a movement to replace all its shopping carts, baskets and trolleys by innovative alternatives made with 25% of plastic from ghost nets and fishing ropes, lost in the Baltic and North Seas, and in the Atlantic Ocean. The remaining 75% come from recycled plastic.

Biedronka new shopping carts

Starting in June 2020, Biedronka’s shopping baskets and trolleys have been steadily replaced and the previous ones have been sent to recycling. There are now more than 400 thousand eco-friendlier shopping trolleys in the Polish stores of the Jerónimo Martins Group.

On average, each basket or cart uses 1.5 metres of rope and ghost nets, that would otherwise take more than 600 years to fully decompose at sea.

By removing these materials from the seas and oceans and recycling them, Biedronka and its partners contribute to protecting marine habitats and reducing the carbon emissions associated with the production of new plastic by around 20%.

A part of the cost of Biedronka’s new shopping carts, baskets and trolleys is donated by the manufacturer to the non-governmental organisation Plastic Change. This NGO participates actively in cleaning our seas, namely in removing ghost nets and leftover fishing ropes, that will then be used to create shopping carts. And that’s circular economy.

Combined efforts to clean the seas

The European Strategy for Plastics, adopted in 2018 by the European Commission, has a strong focus on the pollution of marine environments by plastics leftover by fishing and aquaculture activities. As such, the strategy consists of several goals and rules aimed at reducing (or preferably, eliminate) the pollution of the seas with this sort of materials.

Until December 2024, all the manufacturers of fishing gear containing plastic in the EU member-states will have to cover the costs of collection of abandoned or end-of-life fishing gear and ensure their transportation and handling.

Moreover, national annual quotas are being set for each EU member, regarding marine litter collection and annual reports on marine litter must be delivered to the European Commission. These reports should focus on the state of marine pollution, and the collection and handling of waste found in the sea.

The purpose is that, in the future, ghost nets will increasingly be just ghosts from the past.