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North Lakeland Discovery Center coordinates with Town of Winchester for fishing line recycling program

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North Lakeland Discovery Center
Matt Flynn, Summer Water Monitoring Intern at North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters, shows the containers that are part of the fishing line recycling program he led this summer.

It’s a common enough site for wildlife rehabilitators in the Northwoods.

Fishing line gets caught around the feet of a duck or snakes are found with the line wrapped around their bodies. Some animals even end up ingesting it.

“We actually had one of our turtles at the Discovery Center who lost both of his front limbs who lost both his front limbs from being tangled in fishing lines,” said Matt Flynn, an intern at the North Lakeland Discovery Center this summer.

He said the problem is that fishing line, especially the commonly used monofilament lines, is that it takes hundreds of years to breakdown.

“It’s a single strand of really high-density plastic that requires a special recycling process which means that it cannot be recycled at most local recycling facilities,” said Flynn.

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North Lakeland Discovery Center
One of the fishing line recycle containers installed at a boat landing in Winchester.

Flynn wanted to make it easier on fishermen to properly dispose of their lines. He had seen PVC tubes at boat landings and piers used in other places to collect old fishing lines. Flynn reached out the DNR about their program and found that no landings in Vilas County had recycling containers.

He worked with the Town of Winchester in Vilas County to build and install fishing line recycle containers at the town-owned boat landings as part of his internship project.

“I thought that might be a good place to start and hope that this would spark a bigger contribution to the program in Wisconsin,” said Flynn.

“Each year we require all of our interns to complete an independent project. The only parameters that I put on that is it has to benefit water in some way. It gives them a lot of room to be creative and a lot of room to direct that project towards their own personal interest. Matt actually came up with this project all on his own,” said Emily Heald, Water Program Coordinator at the Discovery Center.

While Flynn has returned to school for the fall system, volunteers will continue to monitor and collect the fishing line.

It’s sent to Berkley Recycling in Iowa where the plastic is broken down so it can be repurposed into something else.

“By just taking a couple minutes after you get back from your fishing just to toss it in this recycling bin at the boat landing, then you’re doing your freshwater ecosystems a huge favor in the long run,” said Flynn.

If you’re interested in having a recycling bin at a boat landing near you, you can contact the Discovery Center at water@discoverycenter.net

The Wisconsin DNR also has information on its website.