Healthy Seas: How Pascal turns fishing nets into floor mats

Pascal van Erp trudges heavily over the jetty onto the old boat. The old diesel grumbles, it goes out to sea. Then Pascal shoulders his 65-kilogram scuba gear and jumps into the water. Together with colleagues, he sinks to a depth of 39 meters. Today’s place of work is a reef off the coast of Croatia.

The Dutch giant used to be an IT project manager at Greenpeace. “Then I realized I couldn’t keep doing the job.” He wanted out and help. And joined Healthy Seas.

The environmental organization founded in 2013 frees the sea from abandoned fishing nets. Animals get caught in such “ghost nets”. And at some point they become microplastics – and end up in our food chain.

250 volunteer divers and 1250 fishermen

Van Erp and his colleagues use large knives to cut the nets free under water, attach lifting bags to them and fill them with air. Gradually they pop up on the surface, the ship’s crew pulls everything on board.

Healthy Seas report

The nets lay in the sea for decades and are being recovered by volunteer German divers.

250 volunteer divers and 1250 fishermen now work with Healthy Seas. Many take extra leave to be able to help – like the half dozen German divers who came to Croatia for a few days.

640,000 tons of “ghost nets”

Of course, what Healthy Seas does is more of a symbolic act. An estimated 640,000 tons of fishing nets end up in the world’s oceans as “ghost nets” each year. And Healthy Seas volunteer divers have lifted 773 tons so far – in nine years. But the organization is about more.

“We go to schools and educate children about the problem with ghost nets,” says Christina Wiegers (30), who is a project manager on board the organization and comes from Hamburg. In addition, efforts are being made to work with fishermen so that nets do not become an environmental problem in the first place.

Healthy Seas report

Martina Santoni works for Aquafil. The company recycles old nets and carpets.

change of location. Martina Santoni is standing in front of a huge mountain of old fishing nets near Ljubljana (Slovenia). She works for Aquafil, the Italian company that has been making nylon fibers since the 1960s. And since 2011 Econyl.

Greenhouse effect reduced by up to 90 percent

That’s what the Italians call their recycled nylon, which is made from old carpets, fishing nets and industrial plastic waste. The advantage: It reduces the greenhouse effect of nylon by up to 90 percent compared to the oil material.

Healthy Seas report

New nylon: the wafer-thin threads are wound onto spools and packaged by robots.

The fashion industry uses the wafer-thin recycled nylon threads to make backpacks, bathing suits and sunglasses, and the car industry makes textiles for interiors. Floor mats, seats, door panels: “We work with Mercedes, BMW, Cupra and Hyundai, among others,” says Martina Santoni.

Around a quarter of recycled nylon is made from fishing nets. “The vast majority, however, comes from fish farms and not from the sea,” says Santoni. It’s important for her to emphasize that.

Healthy Seas report

Floor mats for the Hyundai Ioniq 5, for example, are made from recycled nylon.

She is now standing next to a mountain of old carpets. “They come from the Cannes Film Festival,” she says. These are now also processed into new nylon. If you see red floor mats in your car in the near future, don’t be surprised…


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