For years, plastic caught by fishing communities on the Kollam coast in India’s southern state of Kerala was thrown back into the water, damaging aquatic ecosystems and killing fish. But fishers are spearheading an innovative initiative to clean up the ocean – along with their daily hauls of fish, they pull in and collect the waste that gets enmeshed in their nets. Bottles, ropes, toys, shoes, discarded fishing nets and polythene bags are sorted, washed, shredded, before being recycled into material added to asphalt to help to build local roads. In 2017, the Keralan government’s harbour engineering department (HED) launched its Suchitwa Sagaram (Clean Sea) initiative, providing nylon bags to the 1,000-odd fishing boats for the crew to collect the rubbish. The plastic is processed onshore and fed into a shredding machine, then sold on to roadbuilders. Nearly 3,000 fishers and boat owners in Kollam are involved in the initiative. Now the programme is expanding to other harbours and with one million people working in the fishing industry in Kerala, of whom 25% are directly involved in fishing, scaling up the project could have a real impact. Had we continued to be reckless, there wouldn’t have been any more […]

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