Sea Scout’s project sheds light on the importance of proper fishing line disposal

Quinn Laffey and the 10 monofilament recycling containers he installed at one marina. Photo courtesy of Quinn Laffey

Disposing of monofilament fishing line is a tricky thing.

A properly planned and executed recycling program is the answer, but not all marinas and other fishing areas have such a system in place.

That’s where Sea Scout Quinn Laffey — and other public servants like him – can help.

Quinn, 19, led the assembly and installation of 20 fishing line recycling tubes at five different marinas in northern Virginia last year. Later, he collected 32 miles of fishing line from these tubes, which was shipped to a facility in Iowa so it could be properly recycled.

He participated in multiple community outreach events designed to educate the public on the importance of fishing line recycling. And he established a program that will allow the project to continue for years to come.

The installation of the recycling tubes alone earned Quinn the rank of Quartermaster, the highest award for Sea Scouts. The rest of the project satisfied the requirements for one of his two Distinguished Conservation Service Award projects. (Quinn’s other Distinguished Conservation Service Award project involved building and installing nesting and feeding boxes for the Southern flying squirrel population at a community nature center.)

“It’s great because you can see with your own eyes the impact and the result of the work that you’ve put into it,” says Quinn, an Eagle Scout from Troop 4077 in Alexandria, Virginia; a Quartermaster from Ship 1942 in Arlington, Virginia; and a member of Venturing Crew 1942 in Arlington.

Photo courtesy of Quinn Laffey

The problem with monofilament fishing line

Because of its flexibility and strength, monofilament fishing line is one of the most popular types of fishing lines used today.

But it comes with a real problem: How do we get rid of it when we’re done with it?

Some people throw their used line in the trash, but all it does there is take up space in landfills or end up scavenged by animals that may become entangled in it.

You can’t put it in your household recycling bin, since monofilament line is a high-density plastic and requires a special recycling process.

Sadly, some fishermen leave their used line in or near the water, where it can remain for as long as 600 years, according to the Boat U.S. Foundation. More than 100,000 marine mammals die every year from ingesting debris or becoming entangled in fishing lines, nets and other types of fishing gear.

Some recycling bins were already in place at a few of the marinas Quinn selected for his project, but they were old and too small to hold enough fishing line to allow for an ongoing recycling system to be put into place.

Quinn replaced eight old tubes with his own tubes, then installed an additional 12 tubes where there had been none before. All of his tubes were larger than the old ones and constructed under parameters set by Boat U.S., a non-profit dedicated to promoting boating safety and clean water.

Each tube features clearly marked signs and instructions for proper recycling.

Photo courtesy of Quinn Laffey

Spreading awareness

As part of the Distinguished Conservation Service Award project, Quinn appeared at five different community events — one of which was a Cub Scout fishing derby — where he talked with citizens about the work he was doing.

“I set up a poster board at one of the tables to talk to people about my project and for

outreach to the community about what these tubes were and the impact of fishing line on the environment,” he says.

And he worked with the managers at each marina to ensure that they understand it, too. Ultimately, they all agreed to collect the deposited fishing line on a recurring basis and drop it off at either of two nearby stores, from which it will be shipped to the facility in Iowa for free.

Photo courtesy of Quinn Laffey

Who can earn a Distinguished Conservation Service Award?

The BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award Program offers options for youth, adults and entire organizations. The awards recognize projects that are clearly outstanding efforts in planning, leadership, execution of plans, involvement of others and opportunities taken to help others learn about natural resource conservation and environmental improvement.

“My advice to other Scouts who would like to complete the award is to find projects in your area which you are really interested in,” Quinn says. “And start your planning about one year in advance so that you have time to complete the field work.”


About Aaron Derr 438 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.