Discarded fishing nets turned into fashion in effort to tackle plastic waste

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A dress designed using recycled materials from discarded fishing nets

Discarded fishing nets are being collected and reused to make clothing, sneakers, and other items.

Manufacturers, fishermen and vocational schools are involved in the project, with the nets remade into items such as clothing.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Discarded fishing nets

Fishing nets made of nylon and polyester drift in the ocean when they are discarded or left unattended after becoming old. There is concern that marine organisms may become entangled and unable to move, and fish and other animals may ingest pieces that have disintegrated.

Fishing nets, ropes and other marine-industry related debris accounted for more than 30% of waste found along the coastlines in six out of 10 sites across Japan surveyed by the Environment Ministry in fiscal 2019. Hakodate, Hokkaido, had the highest percentage of such debris at 94%, and in Hakui, Ishikawa Prefecture, the percentage reached 79%.

Teijin Ltd., a major fiber manufacturer, has been promoting recycling of discarded fishing nets since last year in cooperation with four companies that include manufacturers of fishing nets and plastics.

According to Teijin, polyester fishing nets have a five to seven year lifespan, and 20 to 30 tons are collected per month from around the country.

The companies are attempting to share the work of recycling fishing nets by washing them at nearby fishing cooperatives and processing them into raw materials for recycled plastic products. The first product available commercially is a tray for serving food, used by a chain of Japanese-style pubs.

The French sneaker brand Patrick has also launched a new product using recycled materials. Forty percent of the material to produce its Uminokutsu sneaker are recycled items such as discarded fishing nets.

The firm manufactures two types of sneakers, designed in cooperation with two fishermen from Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, and Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. The brand focuses on comfort so fishermen can relax after returning from the sea.

“We hope that people will pick up a pair and feel the story behind the product, which was created with feedback from the fishermen,” said Kenji Takehara, 42, who was in charge of product development.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Patrick sneakers made from recycled materials

In Tokyo’s Shibuya district, a clothing competition was held on Sept. 1 which featured items that were made of at least 60% recycled fishing nets. The contest was held by the Educational Foundation Bunka Gakuen and other organizations in an industry-academia collaboration. About 30 items were presented by students from vocational schools, including one-piece dresses and hoodies.

Aya Takada, a second-year student at Bunka Fashion College, won the grand prize for her wedding dress. “I created this dress with the hope that sustainability will become more prevalent in the world,” she said.

The recycled materials for the contest were provided by Globeride, Inc., a Tokyo-based company that is a major supplier of fishing tackle and other products.

“We hope that students who will lead the industry in the future will think about the SDGs through our efforts,” said Teruhisa Uchiumi, 49, an official of Globeride.