New recycling program tackles illegal dumping of fishing nets

Disposal of fishing nets has caused problems for the harbor department and Public Works. A new recycling initiative for nets aims to curb illegal dumping. (Photo by Asia Fisher/KSTK)

Disposal of fishing nets has caused problems for the harbor department and Public Works. A new recycling initiative for nets aims to curb illegal dumping. (Photo by Asia Fisher/KSTK)

A new recycling initiative aims to curb illegal dumping of fishing nets in Wrangell, and send the old nets to Slovenia to be melted down for re-use.

The Wrangell landfill has a new place for disposing old fishing nets.

“Any commercial fisherman can go to the dump, drop their nets off. They need to be stripped of lead and corkline, and they need to go into this receptacle with the salt bag,” said Trevor Kellar of the Wrangell Cooperative Association

Kellar is with the WCA working as an Environmental Tech Assistant under the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program. Kellar said Trident Seafoods donated large salt bags to contain the nets. Those bags are in a receptacle at the landfill marked for net disposal.

The WCA surveyed residents earlier this summer about their most pressing environmental concerns, and illegal dumping was at the top of the list. The WCA teamed up with the city, the Petersburg Indian Association and Trident Seafoods to do something about fishing nets, which are just part of the larger issue of illegal dumping on Wrangell Island.

Wrangell Harbormaster Greg Meissner said fishing net disposal has been a problem for years.

“Many times they get thrown in our dumpsters, which makes a very large problem for the trucks, because once they get dumped into the garbage truck, it gets tangled up inside the equipment and makes a real mess of it,” Meissner said. “And the Public Works folks who drive the truck, it’s really hard and dangerous for them to get the things cleaned out.”

Meissner said the harbors used to have open-top bins designated for nets, but people put other kinds of waste in there, too.

“It would all go into this receptacle for nets, and then the birds would find the garbage bags and spread it all over the parking lot,” Meissner said. “So we at the harbor just got tired of picking up mess after mess after mess.”

That’s when the landfill started collecting nets instead. The new program will have a different way of collecting and disposing of nets, but Meissner said it still starts with fishermen getting motivated to take their nets to the landfill.

“The fact that they’re going to collect at the landfill is great. It’s a good spot for it, and there’ll be a spot there for fishermen to literally pull up, dispose it right in the location it needs to go. That still requires fishermen to take that step, and take it from their boat and to their truck, and from their truck to the landfill. And not just take the easy route, which is back up to our dumpster with everything else, and throw it all in and make a mess,” Meissner said.

Kellar said that’s why the WCA is trying to incentivize the program.

“We want to make incentives to get this kicked off, get people excited about it, get fishermen to bring us their nets,” Kellar said.

Once nets are brought to the landfill, they’ll be shipped, likely for free, to Petersburg. The Petersburg Indian Association already has a net recycling program, but they haven’t collected enough to meet the minimum poundage required to ship the nets out.

Kellar said with free salt bags and free shipping, the net recycling program will come at no cost.

“And PIA, Petersburg Indian Association, they’ll take our nets for free. So I guess this entire recycling endeavor, it will be completely free,” Kellar said. “It’s everybody in the community helping out, doing their little part.”

Petersburg will ship the nets to Seattle. From there, the nets will be shipped to Slovenia to  be melted down and made into new nylon products.

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