With the news that the Rideguard OceanX project aims to recycle fishing nets into mudguards, Pete caught up with Ben Gaby to see how it all came about.
Pete sat down with Ben Gaby to discuss how the Rideguard OceanX project aims to reduce the proliferation of fishing net pollution in our seas and oceans, while keeping the mud out of our eyes in the process.
You can read all about the Rideguard Kickstarter on their fund page here.
Who is Ben Gaby?
I’ve cut my teeth in the bike trade, working as a creative and marketing manager for a handful of brands. I’ve always been fascinated by product and in recent years the role it can play in resolving our environmental crisis.
How did Rideguard come about?
Marketing products for other people was great, but along with a couple of friends we decided we should use our experience to launch our own range, and RideGuard was born.
What made you choose a Kickstarter route?
The Rideguard OceanX project is all about community. Eventually it will have to stand on it’s own two feet, but right now we want to have a positive impact on our environment ahead of profits and the implications for plastic in our ocean is both social and environmental so Kickstarter with its community seemed like a smart way to spread the message.
What will meeting the Kickstarter target allow you to achieve?
Simply remove 1 ton of fishing nets from the ocean and landfill. The 1 ton figure only tells part of the story, most of our work has been involved with setting up a new supply chain that’s involved with the collection, sorting, cleaning and turning discarded fishing nets into pellets that are ready to make into new products.
By hitting our target we will be supporting this new supply chain and validating its commercial use. And we hope prove that there’s enough support from customers to validate putting the health of the environment front and centre of more commercial decisions.
How many people make up the Rideguard OceanX project and what do they do?
We’re a family business, it’s myself, my brother Daniel, my sister-in-law Laura, then we have Tyrone Probert our eco materials expert and last but not least our feral rider/tester/juggler Olly Tyne.
What makes fishing nets the choice to recycle beyond its proliferation?
We chose fishing nets because of the damage its causing right now. Out of the estimated 8 million tons of plastic discarded in our ocean, 10% comes from fishing gear and ‘ghost gear’ is devastating marine habitats and is deadly for wildlife.
There’s various types of nets used commercially. HDPE, PP and Nylon, all suited to different applications. We’re choosing recycled fishing net PP for our Rideguard OceanX range, it’s what we make our current range from and its qualities suit the demands of a mudguard.
How do you go about acquiring the nets?
We have two main partners who source the nets. One from commercial fishing fleets in the UK and the other across Asia who pay local communities and the fishing industry on the collection of discarded nets.
How do you get from fishing nets to a workable plastic?
It’s a pretty straight forward system but labour intensive. The nets are sorted into the same plastic type, then graded, prepped (removing unwanted ties from leadlines and floats), then cleaned, shredded and sorted once more before drying and turning back into pellets ready to be used for manufacturing.
How long does that process take?
That really depends on scale, and how long the nets have been exposed to sea water. The longer it’s been in the ocean the longer it takes to clean. One gill net could take 2 days to process in bulk.
How many mudguards can you make from 100 fishing nets?
We work in weight, depending on the type of net and diameter of the mono filament will depend on how much weight each net has. 1.7kg will make 10 PF1 mudguards, there is some wastage in the manufacturing process, including sheet set up for the litho printing and waste trimmed from the cut out guards, which will go back into making new pellets and then products.
Were mudguards the obvious choice?
It seemed like the quickest way for us to take nets out of the ocean and into something useful right away. We’ve always championed the environment and new our customers would be into the project.
Are there plans to expand the range beyond mudguards?
Yes, we can’t wait to show you what’s coming.
How hard do you think it will be to ensure these mudguards don’t themselves become plastic pollution?
Great question. It’s work in progress, and there’s multiple ways we need to combat that. Firstly we are offering a return system for end of life guards, RideGuard customers can return their old guard and we’ll give them a 10% discount off a new one.
We ask all of our customers to take responsibility for their guards life-cycle and check kerbside recycling for black PP. Our ideal is to have every guard back and we can turn them into new products. A RideGuard doesn’t come with any packaging and we’re working on alternatives to zip ties to attach the guards to your bike.
What sort of red tape did you have to cut through to get this project off the ground?
No red tape, just lots of hoops to jump through. Using the material hasn’t been tried for this application before so there’s been an endless stream of communications to get things off the ground.
What are the biggest challenges facing this project?
We have created something that people can be really proud to own and be part of a positive process when we’re bombarded with pretty overwhelming news about our environment. The biggest challenge is getting the Kickstarter in front of enough people and hoping they believe in it and like the designs. We’re also open to producing custom designs for partners on a larger scale, which would elevate the project.
How do you plan to get NGOs and other companies on board?
We’re involved with Surfers Against Sewage (I’m a regional rep), and being co-Director at Trash Free Trails means the two projects are linked. One of the main objectives is to share our knowledge of the process, supply chain and manufacturing with other companies and organisations to make more products, if you’re interested please get in touch. The Japanese nylon from the gill nets is a very high grade, better than some virgin products.
Where next for Rideguard?
We’ve got a range of new products in development and we will continue to disrupt current thinking on manufacturing and the environmental responsibilities associated with business.
Any pleases and thank yous?
The RideGuard team, a BIG thanks. Olly and Jamie and the woods, which remind me what it’s all about.