A material knitted using REAMIDE recycled nylon threads made from used fishing nets in Hokkaido and recycled PET threads. With a simple stitch pattern and a deep color produced by using 4 colors of thread, it lends a sense of comfort to any space.
Tackling Japan’s marine plastic waste
Can we create a material recycling loop that’s never been seen before?” This was the idea which led to the creation of Re:net. Currently, plastic is threatening our marine ecosystems. Fishing tools (fishing nets, buoys, etc.) account for 30 percent of the marine waste which washes up on Japan’s shores.*¹ If abandoned fishing nets are not collected but instead allowed to float back out to sea, the concern is that they can get tangled on sea creatures or degrade into microplastics which are destroying the balance of marine ecosystems. We wanted to contribute to solving the marine plastic problem by recycling used fishing nets and letting them be reborn as a covering material for furniture. However, recycling is easier said than done. We had to confront a variety of challenges.
*¹When compared by volume Source: 2017 Drifting Garbage Countermeasures Comprehensive Investigation Report / Ministry of the Environment
Recycling fishing nets
Fishing nets are consumable items which need to be replaced regularly. They absorb salt from seawater and expand in volume, making them difficult to handle after use. There is a company which has undertaken to solve this difficult problem by collecting used fishing nets and turning them into recycled materials. Their name is REFINVERSE Group, Inc., and they have a factory in Ichinomiya, Aichi Japan.
Threads being produced from REAMIDE plastic
Since 2019, REFINVERSE has collected and recycled used fishing nets from Hokkaido and the rest of Japan using environmentally low-impact material recycling. Fishing nets are bulky and made up of a variety of parts and materials. REFINVERSE selects netting for collection which is suitable for recycling, then cleans and removes any dirt before using it as the raw material for REAMIDE. REAMIDE which is intended for use as textile fibers undergoes particularly stringent cleaning and contaminant removal when being made into pellets. REAMIDE fibers are produced with consistently high quality. For this project, Okamura tried making cover material for furniture by using REAMIDE pellets which REFINVERSE had made from used fishing nets.
Examination of texture and color of prototypes
From netting to knitting
Through this process, fishing nets are recycled into REAMIDE plastic pellets which are in turn formed into threads. Until now, there has never been a material made from REAMIDE that was both soft and strong enough to be appropriate for use in furniture upholstery. Making a soft fabric requires fine threads. Aspects such as calculating the demand-based supply in a market that has not existed until now also has an influence on our decision-making process. Why? Because one must select the facilities necessary for production based upon the amount of product required to meet demand. After repeated trial and error, the moment when the threads were finally first produced successfully was very moving.
These newly developed REAMIDE threads and additional threads made from recycled PET bottles are fed into an industrial knitting machine used for fabric production. We discovered that the machine did not perform well with the standard furniture upholstery fabrics settings we use, resulting in broken needles. It was clear that we needed to find special settings in order to create Re:net successfully. Finally, after much time and toil, Re:net - Okamura’s own upholstery material made from recycled marine waste - was complete.
Re:net’s overall impact may still be relatively small, but we hope that its introduction will help reduce Japan’s marine waste and make the ocean cleaner.
Producing Re:net on a round knitting machine
Product Development Team
Baba, Hosoya & Nakanishi
In order to be able to use the fabric with a wide range of complexly shaped furniture, we developed Re:net with a stretchy weave and highly versatile color variations. The number of prototypes for color and weave combinations reached almost 50. In the end, we chose a weave which evokes images of netting and used 2-4 colored threads in a single fabric to create a feeling of depth and interest. We used an environmentally friendly fluorine-free dirt-resistant treatment on the surface so owners can enjoy their furniture for a long time.
We hope that by using Re:net we can reduce the amount of waste fishing net in the sea and help keep Japan’s beautiful marine environments clean and full of abundant nature for the future.