Meet one of the nominees for the Sustainability Award in the 2023 Fishing News Awards: Fishy Filaments
Fishy Filaments has been quietly working away in a corner of a Cornish harbour for the last five years with the aim of solving the issue of end-of-life nylon monofilament nets.
The project is privately funded through share sale, and now has nearly 1,000 shareholders in 35 countries. Founder Ian Falconer (pictured above) told Fishing News that the idea was to ‘solve this problem for everyone, everywhere, without relying on taxpayers outside the industry’.
“Strong and patient support from the local MSC-certified Cornish hake fleet and the Newlyn Pier and Harbour Commissioners is now seeing returns as we reach a step-change in our operations, from a pilot plant to a full-scale industrial net recycling plant capable of processing all the monofilament used in West Cornwall,” he said. “That step-change will, again, be privately funded, with discussions currently ongoing with investors.”
Ian Falconer says the building of the new plant has required the ‘development of a highly efficient process that radically changes the economics, and therefore the scale, of recycling plant that is possible’.
A former North Sea oilfield geologist and mining engineer, he is currently working to fully automate the now-proven process. “The process and the containerised hardware associated with it are patent- pending in the UK and around the world,” he said.
“With a total global usage of nylon monofilament approaching 200,000t a year and recycling rates estimated at 10% to 20%, there is a genuine need for a better system. While it was born in Cornwall, the new process and plant has to work as well in Accra or Argentina as it does in Aarhus or Alaska.
“But rolling out the harbour- scale recycling plants around the world is only half the story – you still have to sell the recycled nets that come from those plants, and prove to the world that the material has value.”
Ian says that prior to 2019 and Fishy Filament’s launch of the world’s first commercially available 3D printing filament made from used gear, a route to market for used polymers did not exist, and the prices available to all recyclers were ‘largely controlled by a very few mega-companies and pegged to virgin materials’.
Nylon from recycled nets was seen as an expensive niche product requiring ‘massive chemical plants’. “That dogma held back investment in new infrastructure.
“Those old monopolies are breaking down, and Fishy Filaments recently signed a global distribution deal with a leading European manufacturer that will take its Cornish materials to every continent bar Antarctica.
“This new way of doing things can bring immediate benefits, both economic and environmental, to commercial fishing wherever nylon monofilaments are used.”
The Sustainability Award is sponsored by The Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust. Find out more about them here.