Quantcast
Oceans
A fishing boat in Kollam, India, where fisherman have begun recycling plastics. Thangaraj Kumaravel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A Fishing Town in India Is Building a Road to a Plastic-Free Ocean

A fishing town on the southwest tip of India is showing what a community can achieve when it decides to face an environmental problem and turn it into a solution, using ocean plastics to empower women and literally build roads to a better future.


In an inspiring profile on the town of Kollam in the southernmost Indian state of Kerala, National Geographic spoke with fisherman Xavier Peter. Peter has harvested fish and shrimp for three decades, but recently the uptick in plastic pollution has made his job much harder. Peter said he and his crew often pull up more plastic than fish and can spend hours separating it from their catch and nets.

"Pulling the nets out of the water is extra effort, with all this plastic tangled in them," he said. "It's a bit like trying to draw water from a well—your bucket is somehow being weighed back down."

The region had no recycling facility or waste collection, so, for a long time, the fisherman thought all they could do was complain and throw the plastic back into the water. Then Peter Mathias, a leader of a union for fishing boat owners in the region, decided he had heard enough complaints from fellow fisherman and decided to do something about it.

"It is affecting our work," Mathias told National Geographic. "So in this way it's our responsibility, and necessary for our survival as fishermen to keep the sea clean."

In summer of 2017, he asked state minister of fisheries J. Mercykutty Amma if she could set up a way to recycle the plastic that fisherman hauled in. She, in turn, reached out to five other government departments.

The department of civil engineers agreed to build a recycling plant and the department for women's empowerment found female workers to make the plant run, offering the women a chance to earn money in an economic landscape where most jobs, like fishing, are seen as male.

Now, Peter and 5,000 other fisherman collect all the plastic caught in their nets and, instead of tossing it back, bring it to shore to be recycled. Since August 2017, they have collected 65 metric tons (approximately 71 U.S. tons). Thirty women then work to clean and sort the plastic. Since much of it is too degraded to be traditionally recycled, it is shredded and sold to road crews to strengthen their asphalt.

The program has already had a positive impact. The fisherman said they have noticed a decline in the amount of plastic in their nets. And the program is spreading around the region. The organizers have helped other fishing communities raise funds to build their own recycling plants, including a clam diving community who had tried to collect plastic previously only to give up when they had no way to dispose of it.

"]Fisherman] through all of Kerala, all of India, and all of the world will join us," Mathias told National Geographic.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
Lee Johnson and his two sons. Lee Johnson

Man vs. Monsanto: First Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims Set to Begin

By Carey Gillam

Dewayne "Lee" Johnson has led what many might call an unremarkable life. The 46-year-old father and husband spent several years working as a school groundskeeper and spending free time teaching his two young sons to play football. But this week he takes center stage in a global debate over the safety of one of the world's most widely used pesticides as he takes Monsanto to court on claims that repeated exposure to the company's popular Roundup herbicide left him with terminal cancer.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Ryan Zinke at USDA headquarters in Washington, DC on Jan. 18, 2018. Lance Cheung / USDA / Flickr

Zinke Caught in Conflict of Interest With Oil Giant Halliburton

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has spent his first 15 months opening public lands to oil and gas drilling, has been linked to a development project with Halliburton chairman David Lesar, POLITICO reported Tuesday.

Lesar is backing a real estate development in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana and receiving help from a foundation started by Zinke and currently run by his wife, Lola.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals

Celebrate National Pollinators Week By Protecting These Endangered Species

As summer enters into full bloom, it's time to celebrate all the birds, bees and bugs that make the fruits and flowers possible. From June 18 to 24, Pollinator Partnership (P2) is celebrating National Pollinator Week, which was designated by the U.S. Senate 11 years ago and has grown into an international event.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

The Home Depot Will Be Third Major U.S. Retailer to Ban Deadly Paint Strippers

The world's largest home improvement retailer, The Home Depot, announced Tuesday that it will phase out the use of the toxic chemicals methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in its paint removal products by the end of this year.

The company, which operates more than 2,200 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is the third major retailer this month to commit to pulling the products from store shelves. Methylene chloride and NMP have been found to pose unacceptable health risks to the public, including cancer, harm to the nervous system and to childhood development, and death.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food

These Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging Are Getting Into Your Meals

By Rachel Smilan-Goldstein

On a busy weeknight, takeout and fast food are easy dinner time solutions. But your family's favorite on-the-go meal may come with a side of toxic fluorinated chemicals.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
An artist's rendering depicted a light rail line on Charlotte Avenue near Sylvan Park. Nashville Public Radio / Nashville Mayor's Office

Kochs Mobilize to Kill Public Transit Plans

The Koch brothers are pouring money into grassroots state efforts to defeat public transit proposals, The New York Times reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
VanessaC (EY) / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Lake Powell Pipeline Is a Hot, Expensive Mess

By Sam Schipani

With rainfall at record lows, water is an increasingly precious commodity in the deserts of southern Utah. But in the driest reaches of redrock country, one long-waged water war thunders even louder than the rest.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
Offshore wind turbine near Scotland. U.S. Department of the Interior

Public Health Benefits of Adding Offshore Wind to the Grid

By Jonathan Buonocore

New plans to build two commercial offshore wind farms near the Massachusetts and Rhode Island coasts have sparked a lot of discussion about the vast potential of this previously untapped source of electricity.

But as an environmental health and climate researcher, I'm intrigued by how this gust of offshore wind power may improve public health. Replacing fossil fuels with wind and solar energy, research shows, can reduce risks of asthma, hospitalizations and heart attacks. In turn, that can save lives.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter