By Larraine Roulston:
Approximately 40 years ago, scientists began to study ocean pollution. During the 1990s, they discovered the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch — an array of discarded floating plastics that have formed an island.
Today, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Our life-giving oceans will not be healed any time soon. In fact, some researchers think they will get worse before they get better. The good news is that several of today’s innovators are beginning to turn marine debris into useful products by regarding trash as a resource.
If you want to feel good about wearing shoes for your “soul,” check out the latest footwear from Adidas. To create its series of new athletic garb, the company partnered with Parley for the Oceans to upcycle what was tossed away on the beaches by coastal communities.
From Spain’s fishing communities, the company Sea2See also is saving the ocean in style by making sunglasses from abandoned ropes and fishnets. Founder François van den Abeele, an entrepreneur with a passion to protect nature, believes that, as people become more environmentally conscious, they will expect a greater social commitment from manufacturers. As plastic is the main source of raw material in glasses, François is hoping to be one of the leaders in the new circular economy that alters people’s expectations about products being made from virgin materials.
In Chile, Bureo also is utilizing discarded fishnets that account for 10% of the ocean’s plastic by turning them into skateboards. To date, the company has recycled over 80,000 kilograms of this type of plastic.
To package dish soap, Procter & Gamble partnered with recycling experts TerraCycle to launch its new plastic bottles — a blend of 90% post-consumer plastics taken from recycling programs and 10% ocean plastics. Other companies doing the same realize this will not solve the bigger problem; however, it is an important step that will bring about awareness.
Bionic Yarn, a New York City company, turns used plastic bottles, some recovered from beaches and the ocean, into yarns and fabrics for the fashion industry. As well as creating evening dresses, this yarn has been woven to produce roller shades, furniture and luggage. During the past 3 years, Bionic Yarn has upcycled approximately 7 million plastic bottles.
These manufacturers are forward thinkers helping to steer us towards a sustainable future — one that requires a different way of manufacturing products. To encourage more people to become environmental innovators, we urgently need mainstream media coverage. If Meghan Markle had chosen a fashionable Bionic Yarn for her wedding dress, the hours of television coverage would have highlighted the pollution of disposable plastics. Her Majesty Elizabeth II, the Queen of Green, recently declared that single-use plastic straws, cutlery and beverage cups will be eliminated from the royal estate’s cafés, dining halls and catered events. I’m hoping that her next step will be to purchase fabrics with Bionic Yarn that will spin support for trendy recycled plastics.