Student on a mission to turn litter into yarn



A Heriot-Watt fashion student is helping the environment – by undertaking research into how litter from the sea could be turned into yarn.

Hayley Mccullough, who is studying textiles and design at the university's campus in Galashiels, volunteered to work with fishermen who collect ocean litter with KIMO UK.

KIMO UK help coastal communities protect themselves from the impacts of marine pollution with their Fishing For Litter project.

This yarn comes from discarded plastic bottles, which is one of the worst offenders that the fishermen see on a day-to-day basis.

Hayley Mccullough

Currently, the scheme operates at 18 harbours across Scotland and 12 in southwest England and provides fishermen with large hard-wearing bags to take offshore to store litter gathered in nets while fishing.

Participating harbours are provided with a skip for the fishermen to deposit their gathered waste free of charge.

Now Hayley is investigating whether there is a way of turning ocean litter from the sea, into yarn to make clothing.

Hayley said: “Inspired by start-ups in the Mediterranean, I'm investigating the potential for ocean waste to be recycled for textiles here in the UK.

"I've been lucky to have some recycled yarn donated to me for testing, which I've woven into a strong polyester fabric and I'm currently finalising tests in the university lab.

"This yarn comes from discarded plastic bottles, which is one of the worst offenders that the fishermen see on a day-to-day basis.
"The harbours working with KIMO do fantastic work in collecting litter already and my research has shown very positive results; there are hundreds of tons of waste."

All the fishermen and harbour masters Hayley has worked with are keen on the initiative. Around 80 per cent surveyed said "helping the environment" was the motivating factor.

Hayley added: "I've been so fortunate to work with individuals driving change and I am even in very early talks with KIMO to discuss a potential future project; as the recycled fabric I'm working with is proving to be so strong and durable."

Faron McLellan, KIMO UK Coordinator said: “We at KIMO UK are very passionate about helping the industry find environmentally-friendly and sustainable solutions to long-standing issues.

“Working with researchers and students such as Hayley are key in finding new innovative solutions. Already it seems there is future potential to replace our current hard-wearing Fishing For Litter bags, with an equally durable bag made from the plastic collected through our Fishing For Litter scheme.

“This not only helps reduce ocean litter but creates new raw materials and products from an unlikely industry.”

Heriot-Watt University is currently celebrating the Year of the Sea, a year-long calendar of engagement that will span schools, the public, academia, industry collaborators, funders and policy makers.