INDIA, April 1, 2021 (The Guardian): 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 harbor 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. Peter Mathias, president of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators’ Association, says: “Previously, we didn’t care much about the plastic we collected in our nets. We’d simply take the fish and toss the rest back into the ocean. But not any more – we’re now protecting the ocean to save our livelihoods. Had we continued to be reckless, there wouldn’t have been any more fish for us to catch.” Since its launch, about 176,000 pounds of plastic waste has been collected from the seas off Kollam, of which more than half was recycled to lay 84 miles of road.
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