Surf's up! Chile start-up turns fishing nets into skateboards

Thu Dec 11, 2014 10:36am EST
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By Rosalba O'Brien

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A Chile-based start-up venture that collects discarded fishing nets from the country's long coastline and turns them into skateboards for U.S. teenagers is garnering attention from investors as sales ramp up.

Bureo Skateboards hopes the novel recycled element will both help clean up plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean and attract buyers to its fish-shaped boards.

"We love surfing and activities on the beach and what really struck home to us was this global problem of ocean plastic pollution," co-founder Ben Kneppers told Reuters last week, at the offices of local seed venture project Start-Up Chile.

Although it is one of Latin America's most developed countries, rates of recycling are low in Chile.

Latin Americans at this week's U.N. climate talks in Lima have been pushing for bold environmental goals, but are struggling to balance those with the need for economic growth in countries that are often reliant on potentially damaging industries like agriculture and mining.

Changing people's mindset so they saw what was formerly considered trash as valuable was key, said Kneppers, whose polished discourse is more business executive than surfer dude.

"We thought - what if we transformed this material into something positive?," he said.

"We grew up riding these kinds of we thought it would be a perfect fit, to transform one kilogram of plastic into a high value, inspiring product," he added.   Continued...