UK firm produces carpet tiles using recycled nylon from PHL fishers

By Marvyn N. Benaning / Correspondent

INTERFACE, the world’s leading carpet tile manufacturer, along with conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), are sanguine about the prospects of discarded fishing nets being recycled and transformed into carpet tiles.

Funded in part by United Kingdom government’s Darwin Initiative, Net-Works is the first inclusive business model of its kind to combine the conservation and livelihood expertise of ZSL and the business know-how of Interface to integrate fishing communities in the Philippines into the global carpet company’s supply chain as a source of recycled nylon. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear, including nets, makes up about 10 percent of marine waste globally.

Net-Works has shown that it is possible not only to effectively tackle this growing environmental problem, but to also empower some of the most disadvantaged communities in the Philippines to join a global supply chain by taking care of the environment. 

Collected fishing nets are turned into carpet tiles, supporting Interface’s Mission Zero goal to source 100-percent recycled material.  Since 2012, Net-Works impact includes:

 66,860 kilograms of nets collected by residents in 14 collection sites in Danajon Bank and the Bantayan Islands in central Philippines.

 508 memberships in community banks, with the opportunity to earn supplemental income through the sale of nets, as well as access to financial infrastructure via locally established CoMSCAs (Community Managed Credit and Savings Associations) or local microfinance initiatives, which have been buoyed by the Net-Works program.

Following the successful pilot of the net collection hubs established in Danajon Bank and the Bantayan Islands, Net-Works has announced both local and global expansion, with a third collection hub activated in northern Iloilo in Western Visayas, and a hub that is being established in the Lake Ossa region of Cameroon, where nets used for freshwater fishing create a similar environmental challenge.

“The Philippines has been the perfect place to trial Net-Works,” said Dr. Nick Hill, Conservation for Communities technical specialist for ZSL. “The ZSL Philippines team, together with the local communities, who have been incredibly receptive and supportive of Net-Works, have been able to develop an effective model that not only removes this damaging waste from the marine environment but also bring socioeconomic benefits. What we have achieved so far shows that Net-Works was ‘Made in the Philippines’ and is now ready for export.”

ZSL and Interface are partnered with yarn supplier Aquafil, as well as with Philippine-based partners Southern Partners and Fair Trade Corp. and Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation to build a model for inclusive business that is closing the loop on marine plastics, providing the opportunity to earn supplemental income for some of the world’s most disadvantaged people, and creating an innovative pipeline to allow Interface to reach its goal of sustainable manufacturing.

“Within Interface, sustainability goes beyond reducing the environmental impact of our products,” said Rob Coombs, president of Interface Asia Pacific.  “It is about creating systemic solutions that can lead to dramatic ecological and social improvement.”

“Net-Works is a unique and commendable project supported by the Darwin Initiative which draws fully on British expertise in the field of biodiversity,” said Trevor Lewischargé d’affaires at the British Embassy in Manila.  “It delivers a highly collaborative initiative, fostering partnerships with local communities and organizations in the Philippines. We congratulate the ZSL, Interface and Philippine-based partners in the inspiring success of Net-Works, and we wish the best of luck in its global expansion.”

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Graduated from the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a bachelor's degree in journalism, finished all courses for a masteral degree in communication, earned six units of doctoral subjects. Took courses in anthropology, archaeology and sociology as well as Philippine studies, Wrote for the pre-martial law Manila Times and covered the First Quarter Storm and later helped edit a Makati-based business magazine. Returned to the Manila Times in 1986, covered the insurgency, business and eventually the justice beat. Handled the foreign news section of Malaya from 1992 to 1994, worked with the late Antonio Ma. Nieva on a newspaper specializing in corporate wars for two years. Joined the Manila Bulletin as assistant provincial editor in 2000 and retired in 2012.