Inclusive business turns old nets into new carpets

A new enterprise - Net-Works - by Interface and the Zoological Society of London, which recycles old fishing nets into carpets while lifting the incomes of poor fishing communities, is expanding from the Philippines' coastlines to Cameroon's lake reserves.

An unlikely union between global carpet maker Interface and biodiversity group Zoological Society of London (ZSL), along with groups of fishermen in the Philippines, has spawned a new enterprise that transforms old, discarded fishing nets into crisp, new carpets.

The initiative, called Net-Works, has saved more than 38,600 kilogrammes of discarded fishing nets from becoming pollutants in the ocean, and helped 4,500 villagers in communities in the Philippines to earn supplemental income equal to 84,000 additional meals, said its creators.

Interface and ZSL announced late last month that the success of its pilot programme, implemented in 24 communities in the island of Bohol, central Philippines in 2012, will soon be replicated in the Lake Ossa region in Cameroon.

Discarded fishing nets make up a large proportion of solid waste in fishing communities such as the Danajon Bank in Bohol, one of the six double barrier reefs in the world, and thereby endangers the surrounding vulnerable marine ecosystem.

Fishing nets, which are made from the same material that is used to make carpet yarn, can persist for centuries if they are not disposed of properly, said ZSL.

Net-Works addresses the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets, while at the same time supports Interface’s ambitious Mission Zero® goals to source 100 per cent recycled nylon.

The gathered nets are sold to and recycled by Italian yarn manufacturer Aquafil into nylon yarn that Interface uses to produce carpet tile.

“Inclusive business is about finding ways to have a net positive impact on social and environmental issues while still minding the bottom line,” said Nigel Stansfield, chief innovations officer for Interface. “We are challenging the status quo to reimagine our supply chain in a way that improves our ability to source recycled content, while simultaneously cleaning up oceans and lakes and lifting people from poverty. It’s ambitious, and it’s working.”

Dr. Heather Koldewey, head of global conservation programs for ZSL, said: “We believe Net-Works is both scalable and replicable, and we also commit to develop the Net-Works infrastructure so that it can become a free-standing, financially viable program independent of Interface and ZSL.”

To that end, a Net-Works tool kit will be released in first quarter of 2015, a field guide that will help additional partners set up Net-Works collection hubs in pursuit of inclusive business.

Net-Works will also be expanded in two additional hubs over the next three years.

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