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Upcycling Ocean Plastics

Ocean plastic pollution has been in the news for a while. And many alarm bells will be rung this World Ocean Day on June 8th, including dire warnings about the impending demise of ocean ecosystems. A few solutions to recover ocean plastic will be discussed and hopefully implemented. But often one question remains unanswered – what do we do with all that recovered plastic, and how do we fund the enormous expense of ocean plastic recovery?

Plastics recovered from the oceans are usually degraded, hard to segregate and often have absorbed a variety of contaminants. This makes it extremely hard to recycle. Undaunted by this challenge, a new breed of innovators has come up with end of life solutions to create value out of recovered Ocean plastics. 

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Upcycling Ocean Plastics

Plastic waste recovered from the oceans needs to be specially processed to recycle it into safe and useful products. A common theme amongst the innovators listed below is the years they spent researching techniques to economically sort, clean, process and upcycle ocean plastic waste. And the huge efforts to find a commercially scalable business model to sustain their operations. 

  • Converting Ocean plastics into industrial raw materials – Plastix is a Danish company that processes waste fishing nets, a major contributor to ocean pollution, into high-quality raw materials. The Plastbug project from VTT Finland plans to use microbes to convert ocean plastics into fuel in the high seas. 
  • Clothes made from ocean plastics - Seaqual from Spain creates high-quality polyester yarn for the clothing industry, using plastic waste collected from the Mediterranean sea. Waste2wear, headquartered in China, creates clothing by processing recovered pet bottles.
  • Fashion accessories – although this segment does not actually consume a lot of plastic, it helps raise awareness of the problem and allows their consumers to make a public statement about their concern. Norton Point and See2Sea Eyewear create sunglasses, while 4Oceans produce bracelets that each fund 1 pound of ocean plastic recovery.
  • Utility products – some innovators like ReCleanSea and Bureo have partnered with manufacturers to create a range of products, including furniture, skateboards, backpacks and more. 

Discussion in Forums

Join a discussion started by one of our members who has posted a compelling article dispelling the myth that 90% of ocean plastic pollution originates in just 10 rivers

Innovation Challenge
The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is a partnership between National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures to reduce plastic waste. It asks problem solvers from around the globe to develop novel solutions to tackle the world’s plastic waste crisis. Hurry, applications can be submitted until June 11.

Must Read / See

"It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist: the threat is rather to life itself." — Rachel Carson, Marine Biologist

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Peter & Venky

June 7, 2019
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