Interview with: MiriamTurner

Welcome to the first installment in a new series of SABMag interviews of people involved in things sustainable.

By Don Grifftih, SABMag and ecoHouse Canada Editor

Miriam Turner, AVP Co-innovation at Interface, Inc. heads the carpet tile manufacturer’s Net-Works™ program, which is as much a development program as
it is a novel recycling program.

- SABMag: What is the purpose of the Net-Works™ program?

- Miriam Turner: Net-Works™ was created to tackle the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets in some of the world’s poorest coastal communities, and support Interface’s ambitious goals for recycled content for its carpet tile. The program aims to improve the livelihood of local fishers, while providing Interface with an innovative source of non-virgin material for its products, by establishing a community-based supply chain for discarded nets.

- SABMag: Why this program and who is involved?

- MT: Interface was looking toward an inclusive business model and searching for a program that might bring some of the world’s poorest citizens into our value chain. When we learned that Aquafil was already recycling commercial fishing nets to produce carpet fibre, we began to wonder whether the same could be done with old nets, therefore addressing a major environmental issue and improving participants’ livelihoods. We continue to work with conservation charity the Zoological Society of London [ZSL], a global partner which has a presence in the Philippines, and Aquafil, global producer of synthetic fibres and Interface’s key yarn supplier.

- SABMag: How does it work on the ground?

- MT: Community members either collect from area beaches, or bring in their own end-of-life nets. They are paid by weight for the collected nets, and can bank their profits in community banks the program has helped to establish.

- SABMag: What is it doing for the local people?

- MT: Participating villages in the Danajon Bank are collecting an average of 200 kg of nets per village each month. For every 2.5 kilos of nets collected, a family can purchase one kilo of rice – approximately 4,800 extra meals per village annually on the tables of poor families, whose typical monthly household income is less than $195. Net-Works has also established Community Banking systems for the residents—supporting and strengthening the local, developing economy, and providing new financial opportunities for residents. Members have already taken out loans for educational needs, and tapped funds to start new forms of sustainable income, including seaweed farming.

- SABMag: Is Net-Works™ cleaning up the net problem, or is it too early to tell?

- MT: To date, 19,000 kgs of discarded nets have been collected from Danajon Bank and surrounding areas.  Most importantly, the program helps to ensure that end-of-life nets, now an additional source of revenue for residents, will no longer be discarded on beaches or in ocean waters. Beaches that used to be covered by nets are now picked clean.

- SABMag: How is Interface able to use the collected nets in its production?

- MT: Collected nets are sent to Aquafil, where they are combined with materials that include recycled yarns from Interface’s ReEntry® recycling systems, and end-of-life fishing nets recovered from the fishing industry supply chain to create a new source of 100-percent recycled yarn for Interface.

- SABMag:How big will this get?

- MT: It could get very big. We’d like to see Net-Works operating in other countries around the world, and there are, unfortunately, many places that meet the criteria for participation in terms of both economic need and discarded nets. Interface is committed to supporting this program and is working with ZSL to determine how we can replicate it.

Visit: www.interfaceglobal.com/Products/NetWorks.aspx for more information about the net-works program.

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