Ghost Net Busting
Killer ocean waste becomes quality cycling gear
“It isn’t going to singlehandedly solve the ocean’s problems,” says Andrew Belson, Axiom product manager. It is, however, something that helps.
When industrial fishing operations abandon their nets, they drift through the seas and trap wildlife, which die entangled. The environmental problem is called ghost fishing. The ghost nets are made primarily of polyester, the same material as Axiom’s cycling bags.
Roughly five years ago, Belson started researching and developing Oceanweave, a way to turn ghost nets into a usable fabric. He and the Coquitlam, B.c.-based company had to pioneer a polyester-regeneration process, and then convince fabric suppliers to implement that process just to produce Axiom’s bags.
Today, local fishers in South Korea retrieve abandoned nets from the Yellow Sea, where Axiom is focusing its efforts, and return them to a recycling plant. The nets are then broken down, separating the polyester from other waste products. The result is polyester pellets that have the same quality as “new” polyester. It’s a process that is both environmentally responsible and economically sustainable. Fishers have an economic incentive to collect and return ghost nets. Axiom’s fabric suppliers can work with the polyester-regeneration process with relative ease. The whole supply
“The result is polyester pellets that have the same quality as ‘new’ polyester.”
chain-to-product system is what Belson calls an ethical production system. Two years ago, Oceanweave appeared in Axiom’s Seymour line of bags, which includes panniers, and seat, trunk and handlebar bags. Recently, the company announced that all its bags would use the eco fabric. “Because our Monsoon series is 100 per cent waterproof, it took us a bit of time to figure out how to waterproof the bags fully without incurring any additional environmental costs,” says Derek Kidd, marketing and communications co-ordinator. “We wanted to stay clear of harsh dyes and volatile organic compounds. But we’ve done it.” Axiom’s regenerated polyester is making waves beyond cycling. Polyester is a common base material for many different fabrics. Companies looking to green their goods have approached Axiom to use Oceanweave to create their own ethically produced materials. You can expect to see materials made via Axiom’s process appearing in shoes and other outdoor goods soon. Other businesses have also come to Axiom with their own waste products from their manufacturing processes to see if those materials could find second lives in cycling gear. “That,” Belson says, “was unexpected.” Axiom’s ethical production model isn’t just working; it is starting to spread. “Making one environmentally responsible product work is a success,” says Belson, but Oceanweave’s economic viability is essential to the fabric’s sustainability longterm. More companies using Axiom’s regeneration process improves its viability as an alternative to new materials. More important, making Oceanweave sustainable removes more ghost gear from the oceans.