There are approximately 3.5 million tons of garbage floating around the ocean, and around 80% of that is plastic.
Plastics, so abundant they have formed their own literal islands, are tremendously hard to remove from marine areas.
Some companies and artists have put this surplus waste to use as a material base, demonstrating that sustainable designs can be functional while helping to remove unwanted pollution.
One example of a company who has made portions of their product packaging from recovered ocean plastics is Method. Already using recycled post-consumer plastics for containing their environmentally minded cleaning products, in order to make the most of already existing sources the idea to reuse plastics from the massive North Pacific Gyre for packaging is a proactive solution. Co-partnering with Envision Plastics, they have developed Ocean PCR, a plastic that is made from 100% post-consumer plastics, 25% of which has been salvaged from the floating plastic mass.
However, recycling on this scale does have challenges. Using plastic that has been floating around for years has to go through processing to form a quality output item. Also, gathering materials in such vast, off-site locations is undoubtedly not an easy feat. According to Method, their employees and volunteers have gathered over a ton of discarded plastics from beach areas.
Another inventive creation formed from recovered ocean plastics comes from Studio Swine. Their Sea Chairs are constructed using plastics collected from a beach in the U.K., Porthtowan, which has been given the un-coveted spot of the area’s most waste contaminated beach.
Using a contraption they developed from salvaged farming equipment they have entitled The Nurdler their team searches and pumps for washed up plastics. With a machine called the Sea Press they make their salvaged seats, as well as other natural items like seaweed pressed bricks. These are burned and utilized to help melt the plastics in preparation for the formative process.
By using an abundant material that is in an unfortunately constant supply instead of relying on new resources, consumption is reduced while also putting a dent in a much needed, daunting recycling task. Taking it further and employing ways of producing recovered products with sustainable means is a creditable attempt.
Sustainable product design should be a common sense practice. Although innovative and much needed efforts are underway, if they are not an affordable option for companies or consumers they may fall to the wayside. Many businesses that have good intentions may not be able to afford a recycling venture of this ocean-sized scale, and have to resort to things like less expensive, toss away packaging and other items for their merchandise.
All industries, whether in the retail territory or the world of artful designs, creating products that are consciously made will hopefully be an inspiration for other ones that are in the works, and products like those made from recycled ocean plastics can be affordable solutions.
Image Source: Sea Chair from Studio Swine
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