The project sees Spanish fishing boats in the Mediterranean collect deep sea plastic waste alongside their daily catch

The project sees Spanish fishing boats in the Mediterranean collect deep sea plastic waste alongside their daily catch

Spanish sustainable fashion brand Ecoalf, whose fabrics are made from recycled materials such as discarded fishing nests and marine plastic litter, has taken part in the third Our Ocean Conference (OOC) in Washington earlier this month.

Based in Madrid, Ecoalf was founded in 2009 by Javier Goyeneche who is driving the brand's Upcycling the Oceans project, which sees Spanish fishing boats in the Mediterranean collect deep sea plastic waste alongside their daily catch, which is then upcycled and used to produce apparel.

The project, which currently has 165 ships on board, aims to "transform" the Mediterranean by upcycling waste collected by the fishermen off the coast of Levante, into plastic yarn to make fabric. According to Ecoalf, the fishermen collect around 4-5kg of marine debris on a daily basis, including PET bottles, fishing nets and used tyres.

The waste is placed in Upcycling the Oceans containers where it is transported once a week to Ecoalf's recycling plant where it is cleaned and converted into PET chips and pellets, which are in turn spun to create yarn.

Through its Ecoalf Foundation, the company involves five Spanish partners including waste managers, technology centres and recyclers of yarn and fabric, with which it will work on the project for the next five years.

According to the Ecoalf website, 59 tonnes of plastic waste has been collected from the ocean since 15 September last year.

During the Our Ocean Conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry referred to those present as "ocean champions" and revealed the event has committed US$5.3bn of money and initiatives to protect marine ecosystems, to prevent pollution, and to address the impacts of climate change.

In an interview published by National Geographic last week, Kerry said that at the current rate, by 2050 there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish that are in the water. According to the report, 8m tonnes of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year, an amount that doubles every decade.

Earlier this year, German sportswear giant Adidas revealed a similar project in partnership with sustainability group Parley for the Oceans. The collaboration has led to the release of a limited edition concept shoe and a T-shirt created using reclaimed ocean waste.

Adidas prepares to scale up plastic ocean waste shoes

Adidas develops plastic ocean waste T-shirt

A recent EU-funded feasibility study to assess the potential of collecting marine plastic litter to produce high quality clothing highlighted the importance of coordinating with fishing organisations if the recycling process is to be a success.

Fashioning marine waste into high-end clothing