Using Ocean Plastics for Change

By Carrissa Pahl

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to ocean health worldwide. If we continue to dispose millions of tons of plastic in the ocean without a strategy to contain it, our oceans as we know them will be gone by 2050. Eight million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year, but millions more are also being discarded into the environment where they will soon make their way to the ocean. 

If nothing is done soon to stop the onslaught of plastic pollution, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Consumers are now demanding change and companies are taking notice. Startups are creating innovative solutions to address plastic dumping in the ocean. 

How Companies are Working to Solve the Problem 

According to Rob Ianelli, Founder and President of Oceanworks, there seems to be a large gap between supply and demand. He mentioned, “This is a demand issue so we went ahead and made a tool as an online marketplace to make it easier for companies to source ocean plastic and recycled ocean plastic.” He continued, “This way they can meet consumer demand, but also create a better marketing story/campaign.” 

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Oceanworks is bridging the gap between companies who don’t want to do all the work to find an ocean plastic provider plus all the steps that come along with it by acting as a middle man. Their online platform allows companies to come to them and express how much material they need while Oceanworks connects with the supplier and the material ships directly from the processor to contract manufacturer and then to the customer. This allows companies to meet consumer demand faster while also creating a much stronger marketing story. 

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Plastic Bank is also reimagining how to use unwanted plastic that is left behind to ruin our ecosystems. They work to collect plastic and re-imagine it into something useful for society. By empowering a “regenerative society,” plasticbank is finding new ways to use abandoned plastic. They have also found a way to help families in need and their workers are given tokens in exchange for the plastic they collect which can be used to buy groceries for their families, send children to school and buy household necessities. These materials then go into the global manufacturing supply chain.

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If Clear Blue Sea’s Fred isn’t the next great invention, I’m not sure what is. This solar powered floating robot works towards eliminating trash from the oceans while keeping animals and the environment safe. Clear Blue Sea has partnered with sustainable recycling programs to ensure that the plastic they collect doesn’t end up back in the ocean. Fred moves at a slow speed not only to optimize pickup, but also to warn animals and give them time to avoid coming into contact. With a mission of helping eliminate the trillions of tons of plastic in the ocean, Fred is clearly headed in the right direction. 

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One way to protect our oceans is reducing the use of single-use plastics. FinalStraw is doing just that. They produce multiple-use cutlery, straws, sanitizing wipes, and more. They’re mission is to create “Foreverables” that are responsibly made and last forever. The cases for their products are all made out of post-consumer recycled plastic. Since launching FinalStraw in 2018, CEO Emma Rose Cohen has prevented more than 300 million straws from contributing to the rapid decline of the environment. 

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4ocean, a company that was born from a plastic-ridden beach in Bali, Indonesia, works to remove pounds of plastic from the ocean along with each item purchased from their website. They make bracelets made out of 100% recycled plastic found on beaches and in the ocean. Along with repurposing plastic and turnin it into something consumers will want to wear, 4ocean donates at least 1% of their profits to environmental conservation organizations. Since 2017, 4ocean has recovered 9,700,890 pounds of plastic. 

What are some ways we can help solve this problem?

Although many companies are taking on the challenge of reducing ocean plastics, individuals can also do their part in solving this problem.

  • Stop using single-use plastics:

    • Single use plastic includes plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, takeout containers, and any other plastic containers or items that are used once and then are of no further use.

    • You can purchase reusable versions of plastic bags and grocery bags, water bottles like Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteenutensils, and many more.

  • Support organizations fighting against plastic pollution:

    • There are numerous organizations that are trying to work towards not only reducing, but also eliminating ocean plastic pollution. Some of these include, 4ocean, FinalStraw, Clear Blue Sea, and plasticbank. 

  • Remember to recycle properly:

    • Any plastic that can be recycled, should be recycled. Currently, only 9% of plastic is recycled. Recycling helps keep plastics out of oceans and from potentially harming wildlife. Here is a great article on the importance of recycling.

  • Avoid products containing microbeads:

    • Some face scrubs, body washes and toothpastes contain microbeads. These can be extremely harmful to habitats and animals in the oceans.  You can read more about microbeads and find a list of products with microbeads in them here.

  • Participate in a coastal cleanup:

    • This is a great way to do your part and see immediate results. If you want to feel as though you are part of the change, this is a great option. Find a coastal cleanup near you.

The Decade of Sustainability

We’ve had our fair share of the social media boom, but now it’s truly time to start reflecting on how we treat ourselves, the planet, and what we are investing in. Ask yourself what kind of global impact these organizations have and whether that is something you should support. 

Let’s make this the decade of change. It starts with speaking out for what needs to happen. We all want to see our oceans last for more than the next 30 years. There are countless things you can do without spending money or taking time out of your already busy life. 


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