Creating wealth from ocean waste

A team of women scientists, under the banner of ‘Sea to Source,’ set out on an expedition in 2019 to trace and report how “plastic waste travels from the point of origin to destination and to plug critical knowledge gaps around plastic – the flow, load, and composition along the Ganga.

The findings were quite shocking as they revealed how Gangetic wildlife species, such as the river dolphin and a few species of freshwater turtles and otters, were most at risk of dying due to getting tangled in ‘ghost gear’, i.e. abandoned fishing equipment that is one of the most deadly forms of ocean plastic in the world.

Taking note of this issue, annually, more than over 6,00,000 tons of varied types of fishing gear such as nets, traps, and lines are discarded into the oceans and seas every year. It is time to comprehend the scale and magnitude of the ghost gear problem and how it poses serious ramifications to life under the waters. Moreover, the deep lack of attention that it gets makes the matter a lot worse. Such fishing-related remains are dangerous in the oceans due to their propensity to entangle marine life and damage seabed habitats, such as kelp beds and coral reefs.

This is an unfortunate truth and a bitter reality that struck a marine biologist called Harry Dennis based in the United Kingdom. Waterhaul is a not-for-profit entity that Harry Dennis runs and it offers an interesting solution. The team collects such ghost gear and discarded waste and then recycles them in their processing facility.

They make trendy eyewear without any addition of chemicals and virgin plastics. These high-quality products are scratch-resistant and made for the bright outdoors, ideal for surfing, sailing, water sports, and more.

A range of Adidas running shoes have a touch of class and yet are soft-looking with stitching that conjures the thought of the sea. These shoes are developed mostly from plastic recovered from the ocean. 
Adidas believes in changing the game with innovation. In 2015, it introduced the first-ever running shoe made from upcycled plastic waste that marked the commencement of a collaboration with Parley for the Oceans.

It has partnered with Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to curtailing plastic waste in the oceans. Adidas has already developed a finished product with 95% ocean plastic recovered from near the Maldives. 

Through this partnership, it has intercepted plastic waste on beaches and coastal communities prior to its entry into the ocean. It offers a new life to this discarded waste as an Adidas x Parley product.
What’s more, Adidas strives to eliminate virgin plastic from its supply chain altogether and hopes to expand its plastic cultivation to more of its product line. 

Such developments can be a turning point for the fashion industry which can resort to using waste to create a demand for luxury and utility products.

More than just innovation and news, such developments can represent a real change for brands across the globe. It offers consumers everywhere something that can be rooted for. It provides touchpoints to showcase a deeper point of appreciation and concern for the oceans and this can potentially spur many other brands to tap the ocean’s waste problem as an opportunity for innovative environmentalism while also making commercial sense.

Let us consider another brand known as The Ocean Cleanup. In October 2020, it launched the first product made with plastic caught in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch called Ocean Cleanup Sunglasses.

This clearly serves as a proof of concept that businesses across the globe can unlock and capitalize on the value of ocean plastics and similar waste.

These discarded stocks can be recycled into superior-quality consumer products. This offers consumers a tangible way to support such innovation and this in turn raises more finance for making the oceans a safer place.

Moving onto another product category, one must take cognizance of Humanscale’s Smart Ocean high-performance task chair developed from nearly two pounds of recycled fishing nets.

The furniture brand has also collaborated with Bureo, a company formed to combat ocean plastic pollution, and through the Net Positiva program, it enlightens and rewards local fishermen to recycle used fishing nets.

While fishing nets and single-use water bottles definitely end up in oceans, another offender is sailcloth. Since sailing teams especially in races depend on high-performing sails, many sails get replaced and discarded when utility on the open sea comes to a halt.

Since there’s still a lot of life left in a “worn-out” sail, the Sea Bags brand opted to design stylish and durable bags, totes, and accessories like toiletry bags made from recycled sailcloth containing plastic called Dacron. Through its recycling efforts, Sea Bags has recycled nearly 700 tons of sailcloth.

Opportunities to recycle are tremendous across sectors and categories. Rapid strides are also being made in urban mining electronic waste and waste from buildings, infrastructure, and landfills.

Small steps and scalable innovations can lead to global impact over a period of time with a bit of enthusiasm and commitment from stakeholders across the board.

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