Fishing Nets Become Skateboards in Chile

Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Eco-Friendly, Environment with 1 Comment

Callum Beals | Sierra Club  | May 9 2014

This summer, you could be surfing the streets on a skateboard made of fishy nets. Bureo Skateboards is a skate company that recycles discarded fishnets into stylish plastic skateboards. Three crazy gringos came together to start a fishnet recycling company in Chile, and are now hoping to bring the end product to stores, and skateparks, near you.

While working in Chile as an environmental consultant, Ben Kneppers saw first-hand the immense amount of waste produced by the robust Chilean fishing industry. According to Bureo, discarded fishnets amounts to 10% of the oceans' plastic waste. “It's not the fault of the fishermen,” Kneppers said. “They're just dealing with an incredible turnover of this material that is constantly becoming waste.”

Encouraged by the Chilean government, Kneppers came up with the idea of Net Positiva, Chile's first collection and recycling program for fishnets. “I approached World Wildlife Fund Chile and said, ‘How about my two crazy gringo friends come down here and we set up the first ever fishnet collection and recycling program in Chile,'” he said.

Those three crazy friends, Kneppers, David Stover, and Kevin Ahearn, made a formidable team. “We had this great trifecta, where I was on the ground in Chile with this environmental sense, David had this business sense, and Kevin had a product engineering background,” Kneppers said.

Just collecting and recycling fishnets wouldn't sustain a business, so that business sense came into play early. The plastic would need to be parlayed into something valuable in order for the business to grow and increase its recycling capabilities. “We didn't want this to be a non-profit,” Kneppers said. “We wanted it to be a social business, where as the business succeeds, our abilities to improve the environment and community will also grow.”

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