Net benefits: How plastic trays of Indian trawlers are helping to rebuild roads | Global development

For years, plastic caught by fishing teams off the coast of Kollam in the southern Indian state of Kerala has been thrown back into the water, damaging the aquatic ecosystem and killing fish.

But fishermen are paving the way for a modern initiative to clean up the sea. At the same time, the daily fish skins pull and collect the garbage in their nets.

Bottles, ropes, toys, shoes, discarded fishing nets and polythene bags are sorted, washed, cut, before the local roads are rebuilt to help build asphalt. Be cycled

In 2017, the Carlin Government’s Ports Engineering Department (HED) launched it ਸੋਚتوا ساگرم (Clean Sea) initiative, 1,000 strange fishing boats for crew to carry nylon bags to collect garbage. The plastic is processed on the beach and fed into a shroud machine, then sold to road builders.

About 3,000 fishermen and boat owners in Kollam are involved in the initiative. The program is now expanding to other ports and employs one million people in the fishing industry in Kerala, 25% of whom are directly involved in fishing, the scale of the project could have a real impact.

Peter Mathews, president of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, said: “Before, we didn’t care much about the plastic stored in our nets. We just took the fish and threw the rest into the sea. But not anymore – now We are protecting the sea to save our lives. If we continued to be careless, we would not have any more fish.

Washing and sorting collected plastics has traditionally provided employment to a small group of local women in the male-dominated sector. “Most landfills are too complex to recycle in the traditional way. So we split it into strips and sold it to local construction companies, who mix it with asphalt for road construction. Helps pay salaries. VK Lotus, an engineer at HED, says the road surface is becoming increasingly popular as it makes the roads more resilient to India’s extreme heat.

Workers at the Sochitoa Sea (Clean Sea) Scheme sort, clean and dispose of plastic waste. The project will create jobs for women in the male-dominated sector.
ਸੋਚتوا ساگرم (Clean Sea) Scheme workers sort, clean and dispose of plastic waste. The project will create jobs for women in the male-dominated sector. Photograph: Netfish-MPEDA

“Every kilometer of plastic road uses the equivalent of a million plastic bags, which saves about a ton of asphalt. Costs up to 8 km of paved road are also reduced.

Since its inception, about 80,000 kilograms of plastic waste has been collected off the coast of Kollam, more than half of which was recycled for laying 84 miles (135 kilometers) of road.

The project resonates with many fishing communities, including farm collectors and divers, along Kerala’s 375-mile (600-kilometer) coastline. Other groups are now reaching out to government departments and aid organizations to raise funds to help launch their own plastic collection and recycling program.

Washed garbage on a beach in Varkala, Kerala
Washed garbage on a beach in Varkala, Kerala. The project resonates with fishermen along the coast of Kerala. Photographer: Anne Marie Marie Palmer

The move has not only brought tangible economic benefits to Kollam, but has also changed his view of the environment of the fishing community. Now they are trying to make sure locals and tourists don’t litter the land or the sea, and they have pledged to end their use of plastic. “Our boats also carry stickers to raise awareness against marine pollution,” Mathis said.

However, due to the epidemic, the project has suffered a setback. Work has slowed, and with rising fuel prices, fewer fishing boats are going to sea.

“On average, a vessel travels 45 km for fish in the ocean, which requires 500 liters of diesel. However, the government has stopped our diesel subsidy, so now we have to pay the previous 55p,” says Mathis. Instead of 80 liters of diesel, we will have to pay one liter of diesel, which has had a huge impact on our income.

But Matthews says the project must continue, believing the community has never been more united and more effective at protecting the sea.

Our future depends on it. Our children are also encouraging, which can change lives.

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