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Oceans and fisheries
News article29 September 2021Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Circular economy: A new life in fashion for old fishing nets

Fil & Fab

In 2015, Yann Louboutin, Théo Desprez and Thibaut Uguen were all students at Brittany’s European Higher School of Art. Walking along a dock, the three design students noticed the abundance of old and discarded fishing nets. This led to a shoe prototype, the creation of an eco-friendly business, Fil & Fab, and critical acclaim at the Brest International Maritime Festival.

The lifecycle of a fishing net is about a year; after this, it is too worn out and beyond repair. In France, 800 tonnes of fishing nets and 400 tonnes of trawls are used each year, for which there is no recycling channel. Across France, used fishing nets are typically sent to landfill, incinerated or shipped abroad for recycling. The 22 ports in Brittany represent 50% of the national deposit.

Fil & Fab takes a different approach. Instead of incinerating or burying nets, Fil & Fab turns them into a new nylon powder material, Nylo®. Moreover, the enterprise created an ecosystem of local and social actors, to set up a responsible collection system for gillnets from six harbours in Brittany.

When our desire to produce objects made from used fishing nets came up against the real problems of collecting this resource, we chose to respond by creating the first fishing net recycling sector in France. Our goal is to offer a Breton (regional) product that is based on a local plastic resource while promoting forgotten waste

explains Théo Desprez, today CEO of Fil & Fab.

All disused nets are taken to Fil&Fab, where they are sorted by colour and state, cleaned, dismantled to avoid mixing different plastics and to recycle rope separately, and then crushed by a local social enterprise (Les Genêts d'or) into Nylo®, ready for reuse.

The recycling of fishing nets also exists using chemistry, by depolymerization. We want to keep the mechanical mode to reduce the impact on the environment and respect our values

emphasizes Yann Louboutin.

Fil & Fab has developed a technique to transform Nylo® into plastic sheets, which are then used to create a series of new plastic products. Nowadays, it is being used to produce fashion watches and glass frames. With the EU funding received through the Brest FLAG in 2019, Fil & Fab was able to invest in the equipment required for these processes, creating a successful company and three full-time equivalent jobs.

After the pilot phase, Fil&Fab expects to reach a volume of 100 tonnes of net, recycled and sold by the end of 2021. Around a quarter of all discarded nets in the region of Brittany! Meanwhile, Fil&Fab’s network now covers 40 harbors in four French regions, and more than 200 fishers from whom it receives nets. 2022 should see the company develop further with the arrival of the additional equipment in its Plougonvelin factory, capable of producing 1,000 tonnes of granules per year.

European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius met Théo Desprez and Thibaut Uguen at a conference in Brussels in 2019, where he awarded Fil & Fab the prize for “Best project for strengthening the local economy”.

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Publication date
29 September 2021
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries