March 06, 2020

‘Net Your Problem’ Makes Net Recycling Easy


Did you know fishing nets are recyclable? Founder and Alaska division representative of Net Your Problem Nicole Baker had never considered it while working as a fishery observer in the Bering Sea. After reading an article about an Adidas sneaker made from recycled ocean plastic, she began noticing all the material around her and wondering if she could make a difference.

“Walking around Dutch Harbor, you see mountains of nets lying around that are obviously not being used,” Baker said.

Since then, Net Your Problem has recycled 880,000 lbs. of fishing nets from Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, Sand Point and Dillingham, Alaska. Baker became the link between fishing companies who would rather recycle nets than keep them in storage, and a recycling facility in Denmark with the unique capability to take them.

American Seafoods worked with Net Your Problem in 2019 to recycle all stored nets that were old and obsolete. When Frank Vargas, Fleet Compliance and Regulatory Director with American Seafoods learned about Net Your Problem online, it seemed like a convenient solution to the issue of net disposal.

“Instead of putting them into a landfill, we’d rather recycle it into something else,” Vargas said. “It reduces the storage space in Dutch Harbor, it costs less, and we like that it’ll turn into something new.”

He was happy to learn Baker would take the whole lot straight from Dutch Harbor, and that she doesn’t require fishing companies to remove extraneous, non-recyclable gear attached to the nets—a requirement by other recycling operations. Baker’s recycler in Denmark separates the nets from other types of gear on their own.

Net Your Problem plans the logistics between the net yards and the recycler, working with facilities in Alaska to transport the nets to shipping containers for the trip to Denmark. Captains just need to spend time sorting through their gear piles, some of which have grown over decades.

“Most of the time they are astonished by the amount of old nets and gear they have,” Baker said. “Afterwards, it’s like a weight is lifted off their shoulders.”

Baker estimates she’s recycled nets from 20 percent of Alaska Pollock boats in the BSAI fishery, though most of her customers are one-boat fishing operations.

“American Seafoods is my largest partner,” she said. “I hope other companies choose to do what you’ve done.”

She typically finds customers one at a time, grabbing coffee with captains on the way to their net yards to talk through the process and point out everything she can take. No matter the amount, Baker is happy to be a solution to the problem, one net at a time.

“Your old nets are no longer a liability,” Baker said. “You can start to look at old nets and gear as a resource, if you think of it in terms of recycling, to turn it into something else.”

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