With 50,000 small vessels and 10,000 commercial ships, Thailand has one of the world’s largest fishing industries. This, however, puts a heavy environmental burden on the country’s natural environment as hundreds of endangered sea animals wash up on its shores every year, entangled and injured by discarded nets and other fishing-related debris.
In a bid to address this urgent issue, a new community-based project in Thailand is paying local fishermen to collect discarded nylon nets, which are then recycled and made into brand new medical gear – a solution that’s not only lucrative and environmentally-friendly but will also help Thailand battle the pandemic.
There are currently more than 100 artisanal fishermen from four coastal villages in Thailand’s east and south, who have joined the project, run by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).
While the nets are primarily collected by EJF, the recycling is done by Thai design company Qualy. Its recycling and manufacturing operations are based in Thailand, unlike similar projects in other countries that ship nets abroad for recycling.
During the pandemic, Qualy has shredded 700 kg (1,500 lbs) of nets to make face shields, alcohol spray bottles, and push sticks for elevator buttons and ATM machines to avoid contact.
EJF said the project had collected more than 1.3 tons of used nets since a pilot phase two months ago and plans to expand it to all seaside provinces by year-end.