Old lobster traps are tossed into a bucket loader in a demonstration Tuesday of how the Fishing for Energy program works. Credit: Willis Ryder Arnold | Maine Public

A public-private partnership aimed at reducing fishing gear waste is expanding after 10 years of operations.

On the Portland Fish Pier, a front end loader smashes old lobster traps and dumps them into a giant dumpster.

The demonstration highlights how fisherman can dispose of gear as part of the Fishing for Energy program — a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, private institutions and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Kaity Goldsmith of that group said the program is expanding to include communities previously hard to reach.

“At a certain point hauling fees are astronomical and it’s not really feasible,” Goldsmith said. “And so we heard that perspective from the community saying, ‘We want a port here, we want to be able to have a Fishing for Energy bin here, but we aren’t conveniently located.’”

[Divers haul up giant ball of ‘ghost gear’ littering the seafloor off Maine’s coast]

Goldsmith said the program has collected about 4 million pounds of fishing gear from 55 communities in the past decade.

She said it was fishermen themselves who convinced the group that expanding funding would expand access. “And that’s why we decided to use the small grant model to start to be able to bring on new ports that can create their own partnerships.”

Erin Pelletier of the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation said the program is important because it is a no-cost option for disposing of ropes, buoys, traps and more.

“Fishing is a lot of work and it requires a lot of gear. And during the course of their regular fishing season, there’s wear and tear on the gear that requires them to replace the traps and the lines,” Pelletier said, encouraging fisherman to use the service.

The program began as a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the waste management company Covanta and Schnitzer Steel Industries.

Now, port communities will be able to access small grants to set up recycling streams with additional private organizations.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.