By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Turn on a light in your home and imagine it is powered by an old, ripped fishing net.
Hard to imagine?
How about a broken lobster trap? Or a buoy that can no longer float?
Stop imagining. It’s really happening.
Trucks bring all sorts of trash to Covanta’s Waste-to-Energy facility in Haverhill, where most of it is converted to energy while metal is collected and recycled.
One load of junk that was recently delivered helped clear the deck, so to speak, for commercial fisherman 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 a program called “Fishing for Energy,” commercial fishermen are provided with no-cost opportunities to dispose of old and unused fishing gear that can clutter docks and boat decks. They can get rid of the gear without digging into their pockets to pay disposal costs.
On July 29, a container truck pulled into the Covanta plant in Ward Hill and dropped off load of gear that 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 Covanta spokeswoman Meg Morris.
She said that in the past, fishermen had to pay to dispose of old gear, but under this program Covanta picks up the discarded gear and brings it to the Haverhill plant, where it is converted into clean energy that is fed into the 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.
A significant milestone was reached on July 29 when Covanta Haverhill surpassed the 300,000 pound program-to-date mark of total derelict fishing gear processed at the Energy-from-Waste facility in Ward Hill, officials there said.
Morris said the Haverhill Covanta plant accepts gear from New England locations including Portland, Maine; Rye and Hampton in New Hampshire; as well as from Gloucester, Rockport, Boston, Newburyport and Martha’s Vineyard.
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.
“As the word gets out each year, we’ve continued to increase the amount we collect and manage at our facilities,” Morris said.
Fishing for Energy is a nationwide partnership between Covanta Energy Corporation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc.
The program helps reduce the amount of gear that ends up in U.S. coastal waters, converting it into clean, renewable energy.
In a press release issued by Covanta, state Rep. Brian Dempsey noted that Massachusetts is known for having one of the nation’s oldest and most productive fishing industries.
“Derelict fishing gear is an unfortunate consequence of this productive fishery,” Dempsey said. “The continued partnership goes a long way to ensuring the stability, maintenance and future of Massachusetts vital ocean habitat.”
Covanta Energy operates 44 Energy-from-Waste facilities that each year convert about 20 million tons of waste into 9 million megawatt hours of clean, renewable electricity and create more than 9 billion pounds of steam sold to a variety of industries.
For more information, visit www.covantaenergy.com.
For more information about the Fishing for Energy partnership visit www.nfwf.org/fishingforenergy.