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Recycle That Fishing Line: UW-Oshkosh students can help

The vast majority of marine debris consists of plastics, and at the top of the list of plastics pollution in oceans and the Great Lakes are either rigid or hard plastics, or derelict fishing gear – nets, line and ropes, for example.

That’s according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal government’s lead agency for addressing marine debris. NOAA calls fishing nets that haven’t been properly disposed of “ghost” nets because they continue to fish even though they are no longer under the control of a fisher.

All fishing-gear debris has the potential to cause serious problems for wildlife and boat propellers. Even if placed in the trash, birds often take the nets or fishing line from open bins and become entangled.

That’s why University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh students made fishing-line recycling containers out of PVC pipe during the winter and donated them to Door County boat launches and marinas that expressed interest. 

Two of the students’ recyclers are at the Fish Creek Town Dock, one at each boat launch. Another is at SkipperBud’s Quarterdeck Marina in Sturgeon Bay. The Sister Bay Marina also has one, but it’s not installed yet.

UW-Oshkosh students who are in Door County for the summer working on the beach-monitoring program and the Marine Debris Mitigation Project empty the fishing-line recycling bins each week. When recycled, the fishing line can be melted down into plastic pellets that are used to make products such as tackle boxes, spools for fishing line, toys and fish-habitat structures.

Greg Kleinheinz, a UW-Oshkosh professor who chairs the Department of Engineering Technology and oversees the student programs, said they can make more of the fishing-line recyclers if there’s interest.

“We will also be applying for some grants this fall to buy more technology for marinas in spring 2024,” he said. “Anyone interested can contact me for information and learn how they can participate.”

Reach Kleinheinz at [email protected]