As the angling industry strives to reduce its reliance on single-use plastics in response to the ever-increasing pressures of legislation and consumer concern, what can be done with the one material that the general public associates with poor angling practices?

Yes, fishing line is one form of litter that cannot be blamed upon anyone but us, the nation’s anglers.

With the environmental consciousness of the public increasing, discarded waste plastic is making bigger headlines. Rarely a week goes by without plastic pollution featuring in the national media.

Launched in 2018, the Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme (ANLRS) is a volunteer-led, donation-funded organisation that many of you will have heard of already. Initially set up to ensure that old or discarded fishing line could be recycled, it now (via a UK recycling partner) also facilitates the recycling of the plastic spools and associated single-use plastic (SUP) packaging.

With ever-increasing support from tackle shops and fisheries, the scheme now has more than 650 recycling bins across the UK mainland and many others throughout Europe. The scheme has also been the catalyst for the launch of similar projects in Canada and Australia. Since their inception in late 2019, these projects have gained huge support from the fishing industries in their respective countries.

By the end of 2023, the scheme reached a milestone in having collected, and recycled, over 120 million metres of monofilament, some 1 million metres of braid/fly lines and 100,000 plastic spools.

So, what does all the collected line amount to?

  • Three full laps of the earth’s equator
  • 148 return trips to the International Space Station
  • The combined length of 4,700,000 blue whales
  • A cast of 32.7 million 12ft wraps!

Impressive figures no doubt, but those in the UK tackle trade will know how much they send to shops and realise that what is being collected is only a fraction of what is sold every year. Indeed, in a 2019 survey carried out by the ANLRS in conjunction with the Angling Trust revealed an estimated 1.25 million kilometres of line was used by the UK’s anglers every year.

If this is the case, then less than 1% of line is being recycled annually at present. No one can disagree that the percentage should be far higher than this!

Whilst the volunteers at ANLRS, countless tackle shops and the fisheries have grasped the concept that line recycling is truly something the whole of angling can agree upon, only a handful of tackle manufacturers have supported the scheme. Rather alarmingly, over the past six years, the scheme has received more funding and donations from organisations completely unrelated to angling!
So how come this is the case?

There is no doubt that legislation is driving the industry to reduce its use of SUP in packaging. With the inevitable phased implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the coming years, will fishing lines escape scrutiny?

There is the potential for manufacturers to have to show that there is a route to recycling of plastics that fall under EPR. Has this been considered in terms of actual costs to each individual business? Might this result in each company having to create its own route?

Surely, as a sector, it would be more cost-effective to have a single recognised route that is supported by all levels of the angling industry, from manufacturers right through to the anglers themselves.

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