Nicole Baker, left, on a company trip to Homer in 2021. Photo courtesy Net Your Problem.
Nicole Baker spent five years in Alaska as a federal fisheries observer working out of ports like Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. “That’s how I got introduced to the problem—just seeing mountains of nets lying around everywhere,” she says. In 2016, Adidas released a limited-edition sneaker made with old fishing nets. When Baker saw those shoes, it dawned on her that fishing nets were made from plastic and there was a solution for all those piles: recycling.
A few years later Baker founded Net Your Problem, a company that collects commercial fishing nets from busy ports and sends them to plastic recycling centers. The company has collection sites in Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, and Kodiak, and has partnered with organizations to collect nets from Cordova and Haines. Net Your Problem also operates outside Alaska, with collection sites in Washington, California, and New England.
Once Net Your Problem collects old nets, they store them in a warehouse in Seattle before sending bulk shipments to recyclers in Canada and Europe. Those recyclers turn the nets into plastic pellets that are then sold on the global plastic market as an alternative to virgin plastic. There’s no way to know what products the recycled nets end up in, but Baker says Net Your Problem is working on a blockchain tracking system that could do exactly that.
Her dream for the company is for Net Your Problem to operate collection centers in the nation’s top 50 ports. Though the company is still small and there’s a long way to go before reaching that goal, Baker is driven and believes in the company’s mission.
“If there is a recycling solution for stuff, we should be doing that. We should not be wasting resources, and I think sending any kind of recyclable material to a landfill is a waste because that material is derived from a petroleum product, which is not a renewable resource. …If we can reduce the amount of raw material we extract from the earth, that helps. Every little bit helps. I really believe that,” Baker says.