What if the next hat you bought cleaned the ocean? By connecting the dots to a life-threatening problem, some of the planet’s most dangerous ocean pollution is getting a new life in some unexpected places. From hats to Jenga sets, fishing nets are being repurposed to save communities, both marine and human, and it’s easier than ever to support this cause!

Every year, 640,000 tons (1.28 billion pounds) of fishing nets are left out in the ocean, often drifting aimlessly. Ghost gear like this threatens millions of marine species, as the nets float through the water, entangling, trapping, and eventually killing the unfortunate creatures that cross their path. 1

By taking a bird’s-eye look at the web around the problem of the billions of pounds of fishing nets clogging up oceans, the thought leaders behind Bureo’s NetPlus® have managed to not only clean thousands of tons of debris from the ocean, but save the fishing communities themselves!

This way of looking at our world’s most pressing issues can be a blueprint for all of us to tackle the roots of whatever problems we encounter.

When a fishnet becomes a hat!

In 2013, Ben Kneppers, David Stover, and Kevin Ahearn co-founded Bureo on a mission to find a unique solution for keeping discarded fishing nets out of our oceans. 2

Instead of focusing on just the removal of these nets, they followed the problem back to its roots. How did this kind of debris end up there in the first place? What is the cause? They realized that these fishing communities weren’t just disposing of their nets in the ocean because they wanted to—really, it was their only option. Without a system for discarding their spent fishing nets, fishermen did the only thing they thought they could, which only ended up harming their livelihoods in the long run.

So, Bureo gave them another option! They created incentives for people to bring their plastic fishing nets to them. After five years of testing, they were able to figure out a way to turn fish nets into useful, recycled plastic materials that some of the biggest brands in outdoor gear are now using in their products!

With this innovative thinking, we can all get involved with cleaning the ocean and creating impactful change by purchasing from our favorite brands.

This video from Patagonia, announcing their collaboration with Bureo by using NetPlus® as the brim in their hats, introduces us to Ben and their whole ingenious system. This will have you smiling and reimagining what’s possible in no time!

Find more great products made with their recycled fishing nets by clicking here! You can also keep in touch with Bureo by following them on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!

Completing the circle

When you have something in surplus… why not figure out how to use it?

When we look at how the natural world works, nothing is wasted. Even the organic waste is coveted by others! Wild systems in every corner of the planet are all connected in the same way that fishing nets, fishing communities, and hat brims now are: they work together. Each one feeds and sustains the next in its own little ecosystem.

What if more of our problems could be solved in the same way? If we each looked at what frustrates us the most about our world right now and followed it to its roots, could we then create systems that positively impact everyone involved?

What successes would we see if we looked closer at these issues and rethought how everything’s connected? Could toxic waters be turned into something beautiful? What if garbage could spread joy?

Discover how other thought leaders have been finding ways to create more ingenious systems to tackle our ongoing problem with plastic waste with these articles!

10 minutes

What if We Turned Plastic Waste into a Valuable Currency?

The Plastic Bank is turning plastic into money for people around the globe. This idea has the power to end poverty while saving our oceans!

Read More

12 minutes

What’s Our Waste Worth? A Fresh Look at the Value of Our World’s Plastic Waste

What if we saw plastic waste as a valuable commodity and not just trash? The plastics littering our beaches and streets are an untapped resource just waiting to be explored by creative entrepreneurs around the world. Find out how!

Read More

10 minutes

A Village Made of Plastic

What might happen if we placed more focus on the idea of inventing ever more creative and practical uses for what's already been made? Why keep making more "stuff"? There's something popping up in Panama that can inspire us all!

Read More

9 minutes

Turning Plastic Bags into Speakers!

Some of the most important innovators of our time are finding ingenious ways to look at waste as a resource. Here's a clever group that has found an artistic and functional way to use single-use plastic bags!

Read More

As any gardener out there knows: if you don’t get the root, the weeds will just keep coming back.

So, the next time you feel that something’s an issue, instead of acting out right away, give yourself a moment to see what’s happening behind the scenes. You may be surprised by what you find feeding the problem at hand! And even more, that a simple shift in action could have the system working smoothly.

When we pause to parse out what is happening at the root of most problems, very often new and even better solutions begin to grow!

As always folks, stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein

Catch yourself smiling at your phone!

Add the EWC App to your home screen to start every day feeling uplifted about the world! Download now for Apple and Android for just 99 cents a month!



  1. World Animal Protection International. “Fishing’s Phantom Menace.” 2014. Accessed 28 July 2020.
  2. Stories. “Living and Designing Sustainably in Southern Chile with Bureo Co-Founder Ben Kneppers – Patagonia.” Patagonia.Com, 8 Feb. 2016, www.patagonia.com/stories/a-different-path-living-in-southern-chile-with-bureo-co-founder-ben-kneppers/story-17595.html. Accessed 28 July 2020.
  3. Patagonia. “A Net Plus | Giving Discarded Fishing Nets a New Start.” YouTube, 1 July 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LHMZmtpZdg. Accessed 28 July 2020.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.