Vision + Innovation: brands making a difference for our oceans

Ocean plastic recovered by Waterkeeper Alliance for BIONIC (image: BIONIC)

While the Ocean Cleanup has only just begun to remove plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage patch, a bunch of innovative businesses have already started sourcing and recycling plastic reclaimed from beaches, oceans and coastal communities and creating some cool stuff.

The plastic pollution problem

There are 5 TRILLION pieces of plastic polluting the world’s oceans, including around 640,000 tonnes of discarded fishing nets, concentrated in five ocean gyres and washing ashore on numerous beaches around the world. As well as having devastating effects on marine life, ocean plastic breaks down into micro-plastics which enter the food chain (that thing we’re at the top of), with no doubt some pretty horrendous impacts in store for us too. But it may not be too late to save the oceans (and ourselves).

The plastic pollution crisis has inspired worldwide action by governments, community groups and businesses to both clean up the crap we’ve dumped in our oceans and to stop it at the source. Amongst this action The Ocean Cleanup stands out as our best hope of getting plastic out of the ocean. Launching its first clean-up system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in September it has started collecting its first marine plastic debris and estimates it will be able to clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in JUST five years. But there are plenty of companies and individuals out there who have already jumped on this important and urgent cause and have created some great products from salvaged ocean plastic.

Recycling: a short-term solution to our waste

I see recycling as an interim solution to our waste problem, because most recycling is not truly circular, which means it’s not truly sustainable. But while zero waste is within the realms of possibility for many people, what about zero recycling? Probably not so much. While things are starting to shift and the beginnings of a movement back to re-using, re-filling and making more stuff from scratch are emerging, it will be some time before we no longer need a recycling bin.

So in our current recycling-reliant society, I’ve always believed that if we want to recycle products or packaging when we’re done with them, we should be prepared to buy products made from recycled materials. As we’re partly responsible for the generation of the waste we should take some responsibility for managing it (and yes, this needs to go beyond sorting our waste and wheeling our bins to the kerb each week!).

Brands with a vision for plastic-free oceans

While buying recycled plastic products should be a higher priority than products made from new plastic, there is an even better option than recycled plastic, and that is recycled OCEAN plastic. So here are nine brands who care about our oceans and are making great products from salvaged ocean plastic (and just in time for Christmas!).

1. Outerknown x Econyl clothing

Co-founded by surfing legend Kelly Slater, sustainable clothing brand Outerknown partnered with Italian group Aquafil to make nylon jackets and board shorts from reclaimed fishing nets.

Outerknown founder Kelly Slater with reclaimed fishing nets

2. Adidas x Parley running shoes

A collaboration between Adidas and Parley for the Oceans created the Adidas NMD PARLEY running shoe, which not only looks good, but is made from Parley Ocean Plastic™, upcycled plastic waste collected from our coastlines.

Adidas NMD Parley running shoe, made from ocean plastic

3. Millican bags

Millican’s Maverick collection is a range of beautiful and quality bags made from weatherproof Bionic® Canvas. All hardware is lightweight aluminium — no plastic. BIONIC makes yarns from coastal and marine plastic.

Millican Maverick collection backpack, made using BIONIC yarn

4. The Ocean Cleanup x Mafia duffel bag

While not exactly ocean plastic, this is still worth featuring. This limited edition duffel bag created by The Ocean Cleanup in partnership with Mafia is hand-made in California using upcycled screens from The Ocean Cleanup.

The Ocean Cleanup limited edition duffel bag

5. Bureo Skateboards

It seems there are endless uses for old fishing nets! Three guys from California began collecting discarded fishing nets from coastal communities in Chile and started making these cool skateboards.

Bureo ‘Ahi’ skateboard

Bureo also partners with other industry-leading companies to create various other products from the same material.

6. Costa x Bureo sunglasses

One such partnership was with Costa Sunglasses to create the Untangled Collection, a line of sunglasses with frames made from 100% recycled fishing nets and mineral glass lenses, avoiding the use of any new plastic materials.

Costa x Bureo sunglasses — plastic-free, with recycled ocean plastic frames

Sea2See is another company using ocean plastic to make eyewear and makes optical frames from 100% recovered marine plastic (while they also make sunglasses the lenses are made from new polycarbonate ☹).

7. Planet Love Life jewellery

Planet Love Life makes jewellery from recycled fishing nets and ropes collected during beach clean-ups. The description of each item also includes the location the debris was found.

Planet Love Life Sea Turtle Net Bracelet

8. Nurdle in the Rough jewellery

For something slightly more upmarket, Nurdle in the Rough makes beautiful jewellery from plastic debris. Each piece is unique and handmade in Hawaii from ocean plastic and recycled sterling silver. Each item includes an image of the plastic debris it was made from. 10% of profits are donated to Hawai’i Wildlife Fund which removes tonnes of plastic debris from Hawai’i’s coastlines each year.

Nurdle in the Rough Green Basket Reef Earrings

9. Ocean Collection jewellery

For stylish jewellery that could start a worthwhile conversation Ocean Collection makes gorgeous marbled cuff bracelets from salvaged marine plastic.

Ocean Collection ‘Storm’ cuff bracelet

Buying recycled plastic products, even ones made from ocean plastic, is not the solution to plastic pollution, but it will definitely help to rid our oceans of plastic and to raise awareness about the issue.

So here are my top 3 tips to help get plastic out of the ocean AND help to stop it getting there in the first place:

  1. Support companies who use recycled ocean plastic (starting with your 2018 Christmas shopping!).
  2. Minimise the new plastic you buy (products and packaging). Get some ideas for living with less plastic here.
  3. Join (or start!) a local beach clean-up group and/or pick up any plastic litter you see on the beach/street/etc.

I’d love to know if there are any other great products you’ve come across made from recycled ocean plastic — please let me know in the comments below!