The scale of the ocean-plastic problem is hard to process.
Eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean every year, washing up on beaches, choking, entangling and poisoning fish, birds and mammals.
Most of it bobs in five giant ocean garbage patches. By some estimates, the largest one, in the north Pacific, could cover Canada. And then there’s micro-plastics, the tiny fragments broken off bigger pieces, washed off synthetic clothing and from facial scrubs. These invisible bits are in just about every water or ice sample and are entrenched in the food chain. (Including inside of you.)
Lately a growing list of companies, including these six, are taking a bite out of the problem by giving garbage a new life:
Guppy Friend Washing Bag
For the Ocean: This bag aims to stop a persistent source of pollution. Agitation in a washing machine breaks off invisible chunks from your fleece, poly-pro and nylon apparel. These slip through the machine’s and wastewater treatment filters and eventually end up in the ocean where they climb the food chain.
For You: Stuff your synthetic clothing in the bag and then in the wash. The opaque material is porous enough to let in the soap and water but lessens the jostling of clothing and is fine enough to catch the plastic fibres that do break off. After washing, take out the clothes and trash the accumulated fibres.
OuterKnown Evolution Shirt Jacket
For the Ocean: The UN estimates 640,000 tonnes of used fishing nets ghost around the oceans; some continue to kill fish, birds and mammals for years after they’re lost. To get the nets before they become worn and lost at sea, Italy-based Aquafil buys them from fishermen. A regeneration process breaks the nets down and combines them with other waste to create ECONYL, a nylon-like fibre.
For You: Champion surfer Kelly Slater’s company, OuterKnown, uses ECONYL in the outer fabric of this button-down, collared and minimalist jacket. Inside is a layer of recycled polyester insulation.
Adidas Terrex CC Boat Parley
For the Ocean: Parley for the Oceans is working around the world on coastline-focused projects to implement its AIR Strategy: Avoiding the use of plastics; Intercepting plastic waste; and Redesigning the plastic material itself. In a partnership with Adidas, it’s working recycled ocean plastic into the yarns used in a Parley line of footwear and clothing.
For You: By knitting the upper on these water shoes, Adidas eliminates the stitches and seams that could chafe bare feet. It’s also stretchy. Combined with laces they fit like a glove. Perforations in the sole allow water to flush, but mesh keeps debris out.
For the Ocean: The three Californians behind Bureo wanted to do something about the lost fishing nets that represent up to 10 per cent of ocean garbage. In a partnership with Chilean fishing towns, they collect old nets, truck them to Bureo’s factory where they are shredded, melted down and injection-molded into skateboard decks and other products.
For You: Three square metres of fishing net goes into each of these 70-centimetre decks. About 20 centimetres wide and with a grip pattern built-in, they’re forgiving and friendly to commute with or just play on—the carver trucks make it possible to pump them like a surfer on a wave.
Norton Point The Swell
For the Ocean: In what they’re calling “Social Plastic,” Norton Point and The Plastic Bank pay Haitians to collect a high-density-polyethylene, one of the most common types of plastic, from beaches. Norton Point melts and then molds the garbage into sunglass frames for their Ocean Plastics line. In addition, they donate five per cent of net profits to ocean clean up and pick up a pound of plastics for every pair of shades sold.
For You: Nothing about these shades look reused. The frame is glossy with two-tone arms. The lenses are polarized to cut through glare. The Swell’s curvy design fits smaller and rounder faces best.
United By Blue Polaris Terry Pullover
United by Blue
For the Ocean: For every product United by Blue sells, the company removes a pound of trash from the oceans and waterways. Staff organize and help out with clean ups, 200 so far in the US and Canada. In seven years, they’ve collected one million pounds of trash from rivers, lakes and oceans.
For You: This casual sweater is just right—light enough for warmer days on its own and just right for layering with a T-shirt underneath or a thicker sweater over top. Made from a mix of recycled polyester, organic cotton and rayon, it’s easy-care and easy on the planet.