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August 8, 2013

Old fishing gear converted to energy

HAVERHILL, Mass. — Imagine turning on a light in your home and having it powered by an old, ripped fishing net. Your refrigerator runs on a broken lobster trap. And your television is powered by a buoy that can no longer float.

In fishing communities in the Northeast, this is not just an exercise in imagination.

Through a program called "Fishing for Energy," old fishing gear is collected from docks in three states and trucked to a waste-to-energy facility in Haverhill, Mass., where most of it  is converted to energy, while the metal is collected and recycled.

It’s a way to clear the deck, so to speak, for commercial fishermen looking for a cost-free way of disposing of old, unused fishing gear, as well as derelict gear that can pose a threat to marine life.

Through the program, commercial fishermen can get rid of the gear without digging into their pockets to pay disposal costs. Fishing for Energy is a nationwide partnership between Covanta Energy Corporation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc.

One load dropped off late last month included damaged nets, broken lobster traps and buoys, rope and other fishing equipment that was no longer usable.

"This is the kind of stuff that was beyond repair," said Meg Morris, spokeswoman for the Covanta Waste-To-Energy Plant.

The plant separates out metals and other non-combustible items, and then burns the rest, using the heat to power a steam turbine that produces electricity, which is fed into the local power grid.

Morris said fishermen load unusable fishing gear into bins that are provided to fishing ports that request them. When the bins are full, they are picked up by a truck and delivered to the Haverhill facility, she said.

The Covanta plant accepts gear from coastal communities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Since the program began in 2008, Fishing for Energy has processed more than 2.2 million pounds of old fishing gear at Covanta’s East and West Coast facilities, the company said.

Details for this story were provided by The Eagle Tribune in North Andover, Mass.

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