Packaging and products made from plastic ocean debris are likely the industry’s ultimate example of lemonade made from lemons. A nearly perfect circular economy model is made real when plastic bottles, for example, made from recovered ocean plastics are turned back into plastic packaging.
Whether it’s seen as a glass half full (good, more debris removed!) or half empty (it’s a drop in an endless sea of debris!) proposition, it seems we’re inundated with a growing amount of plastic-products-from-marine pollution, a sampling of which you'll find on the following pages. These appear in essentially chronological order on the following pages as a kind of chronicle of durable ocean debris recovered and remade into usable plastic products. These are found primarily published by PlasticsToday along with—pardon the expression—current examples from other sources such as sister publications and press releases; sources are PlasticsToday unless otherwise noted.
This market was set into motion in 2012 when eco-minded, forward-thinking cleaners company Method (San Francisco) entered what were then virgin waters in pioneering packaging from marine pollution.
Appropriately enough, the eureka moment for the company to consider doing such a ground-breaking thing was sparked by a Method executive’s visit to the unexpectedly not-so-pristine beaches of Hawaii.
The company decided to do something about the litter, and literally deployed employees’ boots on the sandy shores in coordinating efforts with local organizations. Volunteers hand-collected several tons of the type of rigid, opaque plastic needed to make this packaging that are most abundant. After sorting the debris was shipped to California. Method had partnered with recycler Envision Plastics to develop a new recycling process to make the bottles.
The rest is history because it marked the birth of a brand-new-age, environmentally minded cottage industry. For more on Method’s landmark effort, see Ocean Plastic: Method turns pollution into packaging, published November 2012.
Next: The sporty side of marine plastic
The collaboration between adidas and Parley for the Oceans involved the creation of a partially 3D-printed sports shoe made from upcycled marine plastic waste. The project, which was highly successful in drawing public attention to the problem of marine litter and its effect on marine health, was soon followed by the introduction in June of released 50 pairs of limited-edition shoes called the Adidas x Parley made from Parley Ocean Plastic derived from plastic polluting the marine environment.
For more, see Adidas and Parley for the Oceans present first high-performance sportswear from ocean waste, published November 2016.
Next: The OceanBound Plastic Bottle
What’s better than collecting ocean plastic? Collecting debris before it reaches the ocean.
That’s the idea behind the OceanBound Plastic Bottle. Envision Plastics (Atlanta) organized special collection of plastics within 50 kilometers of a coast line at known at-risk areas for marine debris and then recycles the material. Its first customer, ViTA, is using the 100% of the recycled plastic in bottles for hair care products, disproving the myth that recycled resin is low quality and can only be used in small percentages.
Other sustainable aspects of the project included colorants and inks, energy use through the production cycle, labels and related adhesives, water usage and more.
For more, read Breakthrough process: Envision creates the OceanBound Plastic Bottle for ViTA, published by Packaging Digest, April 2018.
For more about Envision, see Envision Plastics to remove 10 million pounds of ocean-bound plastic, published April 2017.
Next: An ocean debris Fairy tale
In Fall 2017 another global brand waded into the ocean plastics market: Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G; Cincinnati, OH), which launched the Fairy Ocean Plastic bottle made of 90% post-consumer recycled (PRC) and 10% ocean plastic collected from beaches around the world. It was the anchor of a campaign to raise awareness of the issue of plastics in waterways and what could be done to prevent plastic waste from reaching the ocean.
The bottle was created in partnership with recycling expert TerraCycle with the plan to have the Fairy bottles available to British consumers in 2018 through a launch of 320,000 bottles, noted as “the largest production run of recyclable dish soap bottles in the world made using ocean plastic.”
For more, see Procter & Gamble launches Fairy Ocean Plastic bottle made with 100% recycled plastic, from October 2017.
Next: Breakthrough bottle that's 100% marine plastic
Making new products from plastic waste from the ocean has become a goal for both brand owners and some in the plastics industry seeking a solution for valuable plastic materials carelessly thrown into the environment by thoughtless people. In October 2017, Procter & Gamble announced its new Fairy Ocean plastic bottle, the first to use 100% recycled plastic and ocean plastic. Now, Techmer PM (Clinton, TN), a materials design company that works in partnership with plastics processors, OEMs and designers to tackle business, manufacturing and sustainability challenges, has helped create a new solution for ocean plastic.
The new bottle is made from 100% recycled plastic from waste that was diverted from waterways. Recycler Envision Plastics Industries LLC (Chino, CA) created the new bottle from its OceanBound plastic. It sports a metallic, pearlescent-effect finish thanks to Techmer PM’s compounding expertise. And it signals the promise of applying innovation to address some of the world’s most pressing pollution challenges, said Techmer PM.
In addition to Techmer PM and Envision Plastics, the team included environmental change leader Primal Group and bottle blowmolder Classic Containers Inc. (Ontario, CA).
For more, read Techmer PM creates world’s first bottle made from 100% ocean-bound plastics, published February 2018.
Next: 3D printing filament wades into the ocean plastics mix
Clean Currents, the aptly named company founded by entrepreneur Adam Smith, represents the entrepreneur’s vision to use ocean plastics as a feedstock source for filament used to make 3D printed products.
One of the company’s first products as a proof-of-concept example was a water bottle.
“We think our products will be very popular, but we can only create so many,” said Smith. “That's why our long-term goal is to start a 3D print-on-demand service. Customers can upload any model they want and it will be printed with ocean plastic and shipped to their door in a matter of days. In addition, Clean Currents will create specialty 3D printers that are seamlessly compatible with ocean plastic. Through a combination of our own products, print-on-demand service, and specialty 3D printers, we believe we can achieve what others thought impossible.”
At the time of this story one year ago, Smith said he was in talks with companies like Oceanworks (Los Angeles) and The Ocean Cleanup Project (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) to help the company make the transition to shipping tons of the material.
For more, see Clean Currents: 3D-printed water bottles and more from ocean plastic, published July 2018.
Next: Housing from marine plastic
Problems seem to bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in creative people finding solutions and that holds true of ocean plastics. Waste Free Oceans (WFO; Brussels) as mentioned earlier engages in marine litter clean-up operations worldwide and, through “closing the loop” projects, works with companies to transform the collected waste into innovative and sustainable products. WFO aims to find a balance between providing concrete solutions at the source and acting on remediation actions involving a range of local and regional stakeholders.
WFO expanded into a new area: processing and converting a mix of plastic waste collected from waterways and land into panels that can be used to build affordable housing in local communities. The idea is to help people who have lost their homes because of natural disasters, thereby contributing to the welfare of populations in less fortunate parts of the world.
For more, see Waste Free Oceans exhibits shelter made from plastic waste, published October 2018.
Next: Windex helps with ocean cleanup
As part of an ongoing commitment to tackling the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans, the SC Johnson (Racine, WI) launched the industry’s first major home cleaning brand to use 100% recycled ocean plastic.
“With more than five trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, conditions are continuing to get worse and worse,” said Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “The Windex bottle is just one of the many ways we are not only providing solutions to combat ocean pollution but taking action to make these solutions a reality.”
The company expected to ship as many as eight million Windex Vinegar Ocean Plastic bottles to North American retailers such as Target and Walmart starting this spring. The packaging, the world’s first glass cleaner bottle made from 100% recycled ocean plastic, is also non-toxic and cruelty-free. PlasticsToday learned that the bottles are made of PET and are recyclable as SPI #1 PET. Windex bottles have been molded of 100% post-consumer recycled content since 2015.
For more, read Windex cleaner bottles switching from 100% PCR to 100% recycled ocean plastic from February 2019.
Next: Another branded first in ocean plastics
To celebrate World Water Day on March 22, TerraCycle (Trenton, NJ) teamed up with P&G (Cincinnati) brand Herbal Essences to create the brand's first recyclable bottles made from beach plastic. The recyclable shampoo and conditioner bottles are made of 25% beach plastic collected from organizations around the world.
“Plastic floating in our oceans and rivers has been a recent topic for discussion and unless people work to find solutions, it stays just that—a discussion,” says Tom Szaky, TerraCycle CEO. “By incorporating beach plastic into their bottles, Herbal Essences is showing that they are committed to doing something and leading by example. I look forward to our continued work together to raise awareness and make a bigger difference.”
“Businesses can play an important role in driving and inspiring change in the world,” says Ilaria Resta, North America General Manager of P&G Hair Care. “My team and I are very passionate about driving responsible consumption. Actions like incorporating ocean plastic into our bottles is just one way we are bringing innovative solutions that have a reduced impact on the environment. This is a step towards our long-term vision of using 100% renewable and recycled materials in our products and packaging.”
The press release posted in March 2019 can be read here.
Next: HP draws a line in the sand in Haiti
For HP Inc. (Palo Alto, CA), sustainability extends all the way from ocean-bound plastics in the Caribbean to the office printer. The company announced on April 18 that it is making a $2 million investment in a plastic washing line in Haiti that not only will expand its supply chain dedicated to diverting ocean-bound plastics but will create more than 1,000 new income opportunities locally.
The new washing line will allow the local production of cleaner, high-quality recycled plastic for use in HP products. It will help Haiti expand its recycling capabilities and compete more effectively on the international plastics market.
This investment continues HP’s longstanding commitment to diverting ocean-bound plastic and contributing to a lower-carbon, circular economy while providing jobs and education opportunities locally, said HP.
For more, read HP invests $2 million in plastics washing line in Haiti, published April 2019.
Next: Repurposed debris to reach Olympic heights
In partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Procter & Gamble says that for the first time in Olympic and Paralympic Games histories, all medal podiums will be created entirely from recycled materials – and consumers can directly contribute.
The Tokyo 2020 Podium Project officially kicked off Thursday, June 13th, in host-country Japan, inviting members of the community to collect their plastic items, like shampoo and dish detergent bottles, and bring them to the nearest AEON Group store location, major Japanese retail chain, for recycling. The retailer will then forward the plastics to P&G, who will also leverage recycled plastic waste recovered from the ocean to contribute to the creation of the podiums. This project helps achieve mutual sustainability goals, expanding P&G’s longstanding larger global partnership with the IOC to help benefit the entire Olympic Movement including the lives of athletes, moms and their families around the world.
For more, read Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Paralympic podiums to be molded from recycled plastics, published June 2019.