The European Union is taking an innovative approach to dealing with the growing problem of plastic litter in the ocean – paying fishermen to collect the trash.
Starting this month in the Mediterranean, fishing fleets will collect the plastic waste, using EU-provided nets and equipment, and then take it to processors for recycling. The EU plans to pay for the initial costs of the pilot program, but hopes the revenue from the sale of the collected plastics will eventually make the program self-sustaining.
Fish and other marine life can become injured or die when they ingest plastic. Marine litter also threatens the fishing industry by depleting fish stocks, damaging fishing gear and contaminating the catch.
“Preserving the Mediterranean Sea is not only a matter of environmental sustainability. It is also a matter of considerable economic and social implications,” wrote EU fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, in a blog entry about plastic marine litter.
The EU’s pilot program will provide a much-needed second source of income for fishermen who have been losing profits due to diminishing fish stocks.