For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Harry and Gavin from Waterhaul, a Cornish brand making waves by using 100% recycled fishing nets to create stunning eyewear and outdoors equipment. They have also got a fantastic kickstarter running to recycle facemasks into litterpickers - Genius!
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do
‘Intercepted from oceans,
Redesigned for adventure.’
Waterhaul is a social enterprise based in Cornwall, England. We intercept plastic from our oceans and transform it into high-quality, functional products for adventure and ‘symbols for change’.
“Waste is simply a misallocated resource” – we value ocean plastic as unique material which tells a story.
Every year at least 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are lost or discarded in the ocean. Samples of plastic waste accumulating in our oceanic gyres reveal 46% of this plastic, by weight, is attributable to fishing gear.
Fishing related debris are particularly harmful in our oceans due to their tendency to entangle marine life and damage seabed habitats, such as kelp beds and coral reefs. In a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’, the entangled carcasses of trapped marine life will attract more species, resulting in further potential entanglements. As these discarded nets are produced from plastic, they will not degrade, persisting in the ocean to catch and kill marine life indefinitely.
Retask the Mask: Our Latest Campaign
Working in collaboration with our National Health Service, we are transforming single-use facemasks into litterpickers as part of a global clean-up. In the last year, the number of facemasks thrown away could cover the Earth 4 times over. But we're hoping to change this. We've partnered with our local Royal Cornwall Hospital, who recycle their masks into plastic blocks on site. We're turning these blocks into a tool to tackle this new wave of plastic pollution.
We’ve also partnered with ReWorked to include PPE Recycling boxes as part of our campaign – they’re a perfect addition to the workplace or litterpicking groups. They are delivered flat packed, and people simply fill them with PPE and arrange for collection. We hope this will inspire people to look at PPE differently, and make recycling it easier.
You can read more over on our Kickstarter Page: www.kickstarter.com/projects/waterhaul/retask-the-mask-recycling-covids-plastic-pandemic
How or why did you get started?Harry Dennis, Founder and CEO:
“I’m a marine biologist with a focus on working in the area of plastic pollution for the past five years. Previously, I worked at Surfers Against Sewage, which gave me a real insight into the impact of ocean pollution. As a result of frustration surrounding the ever-growing issue of discarded fishing gear, the most abundant and harmful form of plastic pollution, I founded Waterhaul in 2018. Since then, we have worked to remove endless amounts of fishing nets from our local beaches and coves, transforming this waste into new products.
After discovering a new wave of PPE waste arriving on Cornish beaches in 2020, I set out to apply our previous experience to tackle this emerging problem, stopping this pollution before it reached the scale of impact that ghost gear has. Our newest campaign Retask the Mask was born as a result, and we aim to inspire others to join us on our mission.”
Gavin Parker, Operations and Projects Manager:
“Growing up in Cornwall, I have always been surrounded by the ocean and loved being in and around it. Sadly, I have also seen first-hand the increasing damage caused as a direct result of human actions; fishing gear and the accumulation of micro plastics in the sand are particularly prevalent along the Cornish coastline. I studied Biology at university, specialising in conservation and conducting research projects around the world. This time deepened my understanding of the threats marine ecosystems are facing. I worked with Harry at Surfers Against Sewage, and was inspired by his drive and passion to create a sustainable social-enterprise, focussing specifically on recycling ghost fishing gear. I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to not only make a difference by removing nets directly from the environment, but to also create a circular model, encouraging consumers to consciously purchase sustainable products that last. During COVID-19, we have noticed an increasing amount of facemasks and other PPE waste washing up on our shores. Without effective disposal and recycling systems, this increase in plastic pollution will cause irreparable damage to marine life. We have an opportunity here to tackle this issue both at the source and where it’s causing most harm, and by encouraging people to get outside and litterpick we can help protect the natural world around us.”
What is your favourite thing about the work that you do?
“Making a real impact to the wave of plastic washing up on our shores and damaging our marine life. Part of our work involves heading out onto the ocean to collect waste plastic and fishing gear by hand. Taking active steps to reduce this pollution, and knowing the positive impact it will have on our wildlife, is at the heart of everything we do.” – Harry.
Do you have a motto or quote that defines your practice?
‘Intercepted from oceans,
Do you have any advice for people trying to shop or live more ethically?
‘Start small, and remember that every change you make in your own life is making a difference somewhere. For us, we try to limit the amount of plastic that we buy, opting for loose fruit and vegetables, or choosing to re-use as much as we can, and ensuring that we dispose of our waste – including any single-use PPE – safely and correctly, so that it doesn’t end up in the environment.’ – Rhianna, Digital Marketing Associate.
What are your plans for the future?
‘At the moment, we are focusing on Retask the Mask, which has endless possibilities for the future of the company. We are currently talking with conservation organisations across the world about other ways that we can recycle the plastic waste in our oceans, so there are plenty of ideas on the table.’ – Harry
Have you got a particular cause or issue that you would like to raise awareness of?
‘At the moment, the most pressing issue in our line of work is the single-use PPE washing up on our shores. We see first-hand the devastating impact that it has on our wildlife, so its incredibly important that people dispose of their facemasks correctly and choose reusable masks where they can. Our latest campaign Retask the Mask transforms the masks already in our environment into a tool to tackle the problem, and we would love people to join us, so we can make the most positive impact possible.’
[Harry and Gavin With a Plastic Block of 6000 Recycled Facemasks]
Where can we find you on the internet, buy your work, or join in?
Our main website is https://waterhaul.co/