Photo 1: A fisherman brings in a fishing net. Photo Credit: Jürgen Westermeyer. Photo 2: Fishing net at the ocean's surface is detrimental to ocean life. Photo Credit: Bureo.

Patagonia is well known for the environmental missions they champion and partner up to support, so it is unsurprising that they have a partnership with an incredibly innovative company named Bureo. With a partnership that started in 2016, Patagonia is finding new ways to utilize the company’s products on their own. Read on to see how!

Bureo’s Trademarked NetPlus® Fabric

NetPlus Baggies: Made with Recycled Fishing Nets. Photo Credit: Holly Francis.
NetPlus Baggies: Made with Recycled Fishing Nets. Photo Credit: Holly Francis.

Bureo makes a material that is already used in items like the brims of our trucker hats and the face fabric of a downdrift jacket. This fabric, championed by the company, is called NetPlus and is made from the nylon of recycled fishing nets. Modern nylon fishing nets have a useful life of about 2-3 years before they start breaking, so Bureo collects the torn and fraying fishing nets directly from South American fishers, giving those folks a premium for each kilogram of net, providing the community a secondary income. After fishing nets are collected, they are sorted, cleaned, shredded, and melted into pellets, which are then used for new projects. Fortunately, these pellets can then be shaped and spun into yarn which is what makes it so exciting for Patagonia.

The Problem with Plastic

Why is it important that Bureo collects used fishing nets for upcycling? Plastic has been finding its way into the oceans since the plastic production boom in the late 1960’s. While plastic has changed our idea of a durable material, the material itself takes hundreds of years to break down, which means that all plastic ever made still exists as plastic to this day. As someone fueled by wanderlust, I have found myself on many beaches around the world and have never experienced a beach without trash on the shore. Beach cleanups have become a necessity globally. I have volunteered on quite a few beach clean up efforts myself and was shocked every time with just how much a small group could collect in a couple of hours. Within most of the trash collected during these volunteer opportunities were fishing hooks, lines, and sometimes full nets.

Holly at a beach cleanup in Croatia of 2019. Photo Credit: Green Sail.
Holly at a beach cleanup in Croatia of 2019. Photo Credit: Green Sail.

The Problem with Fishing Nets

Fishing nets used to be made out of natural fibers that would easily biodegrade, but those nets weren’t durable and lasted for only a few uses. It was expensive and time-consuming to constantly replace inoperable nets, so plastic nylon became the industry standard. However, when these nets are discarded and end up in the water, they stay right below the surface, posing a major threat for marine life, the same life that the fishers are so reliant on. According to the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), 88% of marine life, including coastal plants and marine birds are impacted by plastic in the oceans. These marine creatures often ingest the trash, get caught in it, or get injured by the plastic. The World Wide Fund estimates that 90% of marine birds and 52% of sea turtles ingest plastic, and this plastic usually stays in their digestive tract rather than being expelled.

The WWF also estimates that roughly 10% of ocean plastic is made up of fishing gear, and 46% of the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch (which spans an area larger than Texas and Alaska) consists of fishing nets, lines, and ropes. According to Bureo, even though 10% of ocean plastic contains fishing nets, that smaller percentage is 4 times more detrimental to ocean life than all other forms of plastic pollution. If fishing nets can be prevented from ever getting dumped into the ocean, we can stop these from going into waterways in the first place. Fortunately, Bureo can help turn fishing nets into durable hats, sunglasses, bottles, clothing items, and more!

Patagonia’s Partnership with Bureo

Bureo transitioned from their original NetPlus skateboards to working with over ten partners - including Patagonia - to expand the products that NetPlus is a component of. In 2016, Patagonia partnered with Bureo to change the material of the trucker hat brims to NetPlus. It was a simple but monumental change that set the precedent for more items in Patagonia’s line to be converted to this recycled material.

As of the spring 2022 line, all Baggies™ are now made from 100% recycled fishing nets, making them the first in Patagonia’s line to claim that title. Our faithful shorts haven’t changed much in the forty years of their existence, but a small switch like this is enough to divert tens of thousands of torn and fraying fishing nets from the ocean into something we can wear with pride. They still remain durable, versatile, and high performing with an even greater mission behind them.

Before Patagonia even started using NetPlus® in Baggies - trucker hats and select jackets with NetPlus content were repurposing over 71,000 pounds of fishing nets per year. We are eager to see what impact the legendary Baggies will have!

How do discarded fishing nets become NetPlus Fabric? Clean up Fishing Nets; then Shred, Melt, Weave into material. Create fabric to Wear.

What are Baggies™ anyway?

Baggies were originally introduced in 1982 by Yvon Chouinard and quickly became a staple short for outdoor enthusiasts. Because Baggies are quick-drying and durable, they make it easy to wear them to work, on a hike, on a swim at the top of the mountain, and back down again whilst never feeling uncomfortable or unsupported. From climbing to fishing to hiking and more, Baggies have proven tried and true for four decades. I have been a proud wearer of Baggies since discovering them at Patagonia Burlington, and they have already become my go-to short. Getting to look into new initiatives for this garment was a task I was eager to undertake. I hope you get as excited about these simple shorts as I am!

Stop in and try Baggies on for yourself or order them off of our website!

- Holly Francis,
Patagonia Burlington