Large-scale recycling of fishing nets with innovative Ocean Recovery Project

Environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy has teamed up with plastic processing experts Milspeed on a ground-breaking project to develop the large-scale recycling of fishing nets in the UK with the Ocean Recovery Project.

Each year, it’s estimated that 640,000 tonnes** of fishing nets end up as plastic waste in our oceans.

In addition to being hazardous for boats, these nets can continue to ‘ghost fish’ for up to 600 years, with countless fish, dolphins and seals killed after getting trapped in them.

Recycling of fishing nets with Ocean Recovery Project

It is hoped that installing a free UK recycling service at harboursides will encourage the recycling of both nets and ropes.

Since March 2020, Keep Britain Tidy and Milspeed have been working together to develop the project and, to date, more than 40 tonnes of trawl net has been turned into recycled plastic pellets that can be resold to the market.

This is the only fully UK-based trawl net recycling scheme and, until its launch, the only options were sending the nets to landfill or exporting them to Europe for recycling.

There are huge environmental and economic benefits to having a UK recycling scheme and it is hoped that, over time, it can be rolled out to more harbours around the country.

Keep Britain Tidy’s Ocean Recovery Project enables communities and volunteers to play their part in reducing the amount of marine plastic polluting our environment.

Brixham Harbour, managed by Torbay Harbour Authority, is home to one of the UK’s largest fishing fleets. The harbour has contributed most nets to the Ocean Recovery Project to date at around 30 tonnes. The nets then only had to travel 154 miles from the harbour to be recycled.

Working with partners, the scheme is now being rolled out to Scarborough and Whitby in the North-East and has removed tonnes of material from Dunbar in Scotland this year.

Neil Hembrow, of Keep Britain Tidy’s Ocean Recovery Project, said: “It’s fantastic that so many partners have supported the development of new recycling techniques here in the UK.

“We want to support multiple organisations, fishermen, harbour authorities and beach cleaners by giving them an opportunity to recycle fishing nets and rope in the UK. This is an important step to reducing nets in our oceans by working with industry and lowering the carbon miles of transported recycled materials.”

James Milhench, Business Development manager at Milspeed, based in the Cotswolds, said: “We are thrilled to be involved in this revolutionary net reprocessing scheme where we are able to utilise our 20+ years of reprocessing expertise creating high-performing pellets from ‘tricky to re-use’ polymers.

“We have been incorporating ocean waste into our footwear products for four years now but we look forward to using this scheme to upscale and encourage the use of ocean waste in a variety of industries. I believe it is localised synergies like this which will prove vital in creating a more sustainable future.”

The scheme has been made possible thanks to funding from Scottish Power Foundation and the Squire Charitable Trust to set up systems at zero cost to local authorities, fishing companies or other organisations working with the fishing industry.

Keep Britain Tidy is a leading environmental charity that cares for the environment on your doorstep. We work to eliminate littering, reduce waste and improve public space. We run programmes including Eco-Schools, the Green Flag Award for parks and green spaces and the Blue Flag/Seaside Awards for beaches. To find out more about Keep Britain Tidy, our programmes and campaigns visit

Keep Britain Tidy is looking to support harbours, fishing companies, beach cleaners and other organisations who would like to recycle nets or rope in the UK by helping to fund collection and logistics. Please contact for more information.

Milspeed is a global leader in film extrusion and coating for footwear, apparel and specialist film applications. Milspeed are renowned for producing high performance sustainable footwear components with their manufacturing and reprocessing hub based in the UK. Milspeed has a worldwide presence with warehouses supporting footwear manufacturing locations worldwide and technical sales support offices situated in: USA, China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Spain. Over the past 35 years they have become experts in reprocessing ‘tricky to re-use’ polymers for use in high performance products in the extrusion and injection moulding industries.

Preserving natural resources and encouraging a sustainable future for the world is embedded deep within the company’s roots, this can be reflected in the low CO2e and high recycled content products they have on the market. If you are interested in hearing more about their reprocessing or extrusion services then please get in touch at

Ocean Plastic Pots are using nets recycled from the Scottish harbour of Dunbar and beach cleans in Scotland to develop sustainable products. They won ‘Sustainable Garden Product of the Year award’ at the RHS flower show in 2021.

Ocean Recovery Projects partner Journey Blue’s net collect scheme has two containers situated at Scarborough and Whitby harbour where fishermen can drop off waste nets and rope.

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