Fishing is one of the main industries in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). Traditionally, fishing rope was manufactured of natural materials, but synthetic plastics (predominantly polyethylene and polypropylene) rapidly replaced these materials as plastic rope was lightweight, more durable and cheaper to manufacture. Unfortunately, end-of-life fishing rope poses environmental, economic and safety hazards.
End-of-life options include re-use, landfilling, incineration and recycling. Many factors can affect the practicality of recycling including storage space at ports, heavy contamination, low quality of degraded plastics, transport and processing costs, nconsistent supply, necessity of specialized equipment, seasonality of waste disposal, and missing end markets. However, the Government of Canada has identified the fishing and aquaculture industries as priority areas in Phase 2 of the Canada-Wide Action Plan of Zero Plastic Waste, so solutions are needed.
Most plastic recycling is mechanical (primary/ secondary). Despite increased interest, there is very little commercial application of tertiary recycling (also known as chemical or feedstock) of polypropylene and polyethylene. Mechanical recycling of end-of-life fishing rope is a multi-step process including identification and sorting of materials, shredding, decontamination, separation of polymers, drying and extrusion. Strategies to support recycling end-of-life fishing gear internationally include landfill tax, extended producer responsibility programs, deposit refund schemes, reward schemes and indirect fees. Extended producer responsibility programs are considered the most effective and should be explored for potential implementation in NL.
Currently in NL, end-of-life fishing rope in NL is landfilled or incinerated. An analysis in Norway that investigated the environmental, economic, and social impacts of landfilling, incinerating, and recycling of waste fishing gear indicated that recycling was the best alternative, but only when that was done locally. Exporting waste for recycling was found to be less sustainable than landfilling or incineration due to significant adverse environmental and economic impacts.
In Denmark, fishing rope has been successfully recycled into pellets and used to manufacture new fishing rope. Manufacturing of pellets or 3D printing filament are options explored for NL. Many groups in Atlantic Canada are actively seeking solutions to this problem. Maintaining relationships with stakeholders is recommended to avoid duplication of effort, and to collectively work towards a regional solution.
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Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship