Ghost Gear investigations – weeks sixteen and seventeen – the Net Hack…

Following on from the Serious Game in December in WK 12, we invited back the attendees, plus some designers to undertake a Net Hack Challenge, similar to the one we attended in WK7 with Prof. Martin Charter at the Centre for Sustainable Design. In this event, designers were asked to brainstorm ideas around the issues of waste fishing gear generally – responding to a set of briefs set by industry, ranging from how to utilise recovered lobster pots to how to create something for the home from net.

Each of these briefs resulted in interesting ideas, however, this project is specifically looking at the opportunities for nets (and specifically green PP net) to be reprocessed into a raw material and used for injection moulding. Therefore, we decided to amend the briefs we gave as options to the design teams to take this into account – but still engaging with the wider ghost gear / marine litter / marine conservation community.

New briefs were sourced from key players in the industry:

  • Surfers Against Sewage – Hugo Tagholm (CEO): Surfers Against Sewage is a national marine conservation and campaigning charity that inspires, unites and empowers communities to take action to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife. (

SAS were keen to look at opportunities for how reused net material could be turned into a new product that could be used on a beach clean to spread awareness of marine plastic, or a product that could be a new fund-raising addition to their online shop.

  • MCB Seafoods – Harry Owen (fisheries consultant): MCB Seafoods was established in 2003 by two brothers with a passion for fresh, quality, sustainable seafood from their base in Newhaven. Utilising their 60+ years of combined experience the business has flourished, including becoming part of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition in 2015.

Sustainability is at the core of their approach to business and is why they are committed to sourcing all of our seafood responsibly. MCB joined the SSC to work with others from the industry to create a benchmark for environmental claims and help drive improvement in the fisheries that do not meet strict sustainability standards.

MCB were keen to explore ideas that could be used by the fishing industry itself – new products made from nets that go back to fishers.

  • Bureo – Ben Kneppers (Co-Founder): Bureo make skateboards (and other items, such as the new Jenga Ocean toy) from recycled fishing nets. Their recycling program in Chile, ‘Net Positiva’, provides fishing net collection points to keep plastic fishing nets out of our oceans. Preventing harmful materials from entering the ocean, their programs protect wildlife and supporting local fishing communities through financial incentives. Ben is also the working group chair for Replicating Solutions for the Global Ghost Gear Initiative. (

Bureo were keen to explore ideas that were consumer focussed, but that were also educational in some capacity (like their Jenga Ocean set)

These briefs joined another three that were in the original Net Hack Challenge run by Prof. Charter, including one set by the CPD studio:

  • World Animal Protection – Christina Dixon (Oceans Campaign Manager): Producers and distributors of seafood have a huge role to play in tackling the problem of ‘ghost gear’, the term given to lost and abandoned fishing equipment. WAP believe that our oceans and the life within them should be protected. The ghost gear problem is getting worse. As a result, marine animals are suffering. WAP are also the secretariat for the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

WAP were keen for the design teams to explore reuse opportunities for the small fragments of net found on beaches in their first brief and in their second brief, they challenged the teams to design a product which uses recycled or re-purposed fishing nets and/or ropes that could be used by beach goers to tell a story about the oceans. The product should be produced and sold in coastal businesses to generate revenue.

  • Claire Potter Design – Claire Potter (director): the CPD studio have been researching marine plastic, and especially the opportunities for what the recovered material could be turned into for 8 years. As a circular economy design studio the issues with waste generation and therefor regenerative design is key. CPD is a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and Project Leaders for this project – Project Net·Worth.

As regular exhibitors at the Clerkenwell Design Week – one of the biggest design festivals in the UK, the studio were keen to see solutions to the brief that were functional, beautiful and engaging to the public – true conversation starters.

Each brief however, was specifically tailored to allow an ‘injection moulded’ product to result from the process, rather than a ‘crafted / reuse’ product.

After an introduction to Project Net·Worth and some informal networking, the briefs were introduced in person and via video linkup with those setting the briefs. Attendees were split into groups and each team chose a brief to work from. One brief was not chosen by any of the teams – the one set by MCB Seafoods which asked for items to be created that could be used by fishers. When asked, the teams thought that they did not know enough about the fishing industry to design something of use. If a fisher had been in attendance, this could have been addressed. 


Some teams decided to join up the briefs to create a product that fulfilled more that one set of parameters also – guided through the design process by Prof. Charter, with Claire Potter and Jake Arney assisting. Many of the attendees had not worked with – or even seen commercial fishing net up close, so allowing them access to the material early in the process was key.


At the Net Hack Challenge in November, we realised that there were lots of questions which could have been answered had the design teams had access to the materials.

Giving the teams time to play with the material was also key – so a good chunk of time was set into the design process to allow this collaborative play in initial response to the brief.


Explorations were varied, but the main briefs that were explored by the designers were:

  • Surfers Against Sewage brief – a fundraising item that could be sold in the online shop.
  • Bureo – an educational item made from fishing nets.
  • WAP – an item that can use small fragments of net.


Prompts were given to the design teams in the form of words, pictures and symbols, to push the creativity of the designers to think about what could be possible with the material.

By the end of the session, there were three key solutions to the briefs that had been created by the teams, all of which were prototyped very roughly with the sample nets that we had supplied to the teams and ‘pitched’ to the rest of the attendees:

A pair of sunglasses – made from plastic recovered from Brighton beach and that could be sold as a fundraising product as well as an educational product.

  • Hardwearing signage for beach fronts – net, by it’s very nature is incredibly hardwearing and is able to withstand extremes of temperature and the marine environment. This example was ‘wrapped’ with net, however, letters, numbers and symbols could easily be injection moulded and be used by ocean facing locations.


  • A net exploration ‘play’ area to educate children about end-of-life nets, with injection moulded ‘fish’ that could be recovered and untangled from the nets.

Whilst each of these designs were concepts – each item could be made from injection moulded items – and would add value to the raw material of the net.