Ghost Net Bust­ing

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Terry Mck­all

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.

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