How 'Bureo' Transforms Recycled Fish Nets Into Eco-Friendly Toys

Bureo, a U.S. manufacturer, has tackled ocean pollution by upcycling used plastic into unique products. The company's Net Positiva program in Chile allows them to turn discarded plastic fish nets into items like skateboards and Jenga pieces. 


May 22 2019, Updated 4:02 p.m. ET

Experts estimate that 8,300 million metric tons of virgin plastic has been created over the years. The problem is that most of that has not been recycled, which is bad news for ocean environments. According to a recent study, roughly 8 million tons of plastic finds it’s way into the ocean every year.  

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A report done by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that a whopping 10 percent of this pollution is composed of discarded plastic fish nets. Also known as “ghost nets,” plastic fishing nets pose a particularly dangerous kind nuisance to the environment because they can accidentally trap large numbers of marine animals. In fact, the World Animal Protection estimates that roughly 30 to 40 marine animals can get caught up in each abandoned net.  

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Bureo, a US manufacturer, has found a way to reduce that number by upcycling discarded plastic fish nets. Bureo’s process is focused in Chile. The company’s plastic fish net recycling program, Net Positiva, provides a way for responsible net disposal which keeps the nets out of the ocean while offering financial incentives to the local fishing communities. So far, the team has been able to recycle over 176,369 pounds of discarded materials through this program. 

So how are these old fish nets transform into useful products? First, the nets are collected from Chilean fishermen. Then they are washed and sorted for the recycling machine. The machine then breaks down the plastic which is melted and chopped into little pellets. Next, the pellets are put into steel molds which create Bureo’s signature products. 

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While Bureo currently offers a range of items, they first began as a skateboard manufacturing company. They created their signature “Minnow” skateboard from recycled marine debris. Each skateboard keeps about 30 feet of plastic fish nets out of the oceans. More recently, Bureo has teamed up with Jenga to give the classic wooden game a new look.  

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The idea for this board game collaboration came to life after the founder of Jenga, Robert Grebler, approached the Bureo team with the idea to give the game a new twist. As the first board game made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets, each Jenga Ocean set created by processing over 25 square feet of plastic nets. The nets come from Bureo’s Net Positive recycling programming in Chile. Each game set helps keep about 2.2 lbs of used fish nets out of the oceans, and the game’s packaging is 100 percent recycled and recyclable.  

While the creation of virgin plastic around the world is unlikely to stop entirely any time soon, pollution might be mitigated if companies like Bureo continue to find ways to reshape trash into something useful and fun. 

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