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Ocean Bound Plastic: The Crisis and Next Material

Updated: May 14

With plastic-use being front and center for the past few decades in the race to protect bio diversity and ocean pollution, we are now facing a time when plastics drifting around the ocean are now viable products making their way back onto store shelves in an effort for long term sustainable development.

Advancements in machinery and organizational coordination used in the collection of ocean bound plastic has evolved as the crisis of ocean pollution caused by plastic continues to worsen. Entrepreneurs and companies have been busy creating re-purposed and up-cycled products.

The production of original produced plastic products may decline as the development of new and more sustainable materials become available, as well as consumers reducing their plastic use.

In December of 2015, Adidas and Parley for the Ocean unveiled their launch of their Adidas sneaker made from ocean plastic at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). This marked a new era of recycled ocean plastic products entering the mainstream marketplace.

The cosmetics industry has also seen an increase in the use of recycled plastic and sustainably sourced ingredients in both retail store brands and online subscription boxes, highlighting the growing number and diversity of demographics who care about sustainability and long term sustainable development.

Since the invention of plastic in 1862 by Alexander Parkes, England, plastic was only first criticized 99 years later in 1961 by the non-profit organization Keep America Beautiful. The topic would continue to be pressed forward by environmental groups, health agencies and citizens.

It has been 161 years from the first plastic product, and with 62 years of pressing the topic forward can we only see how severe the consequences of plastics have been on the health of our planet and populations, also how much worse it will become for bio diversity.

According to a statistic of 2020-2021, it is estimated that there were 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in the ocean, 46,000 pieces in every square mile of ocean, weighing in at 269,000 tons, with 8 million pieces of plastic entering the ocean daily.

Currently, this number has reportedly grown to 50-75 trillion pieces of macro and micro plastics presently in the ocean, and only a suggested 1% of plastic pollution seen on the surface.

Estimated volume of ocean plastic in pounds:

2020-2021 : 593,043,485
2023 : 5,291,094,292

The use of recycled ocean plastic in the mainstream marketplace is increasing as companies innovate for sustainable solutions, implement their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental social governance (ESG) plans, and work towards the United Nations 2030 agenda.

The weight of ocean plastic by 2030 is estimated to double based on our current trajectory. Looking past the immediate and pressing goals of the 2030 agenda, we can look to the landmark years of 2045 and 2050. Organizations around the world are working towards 100% renewable energy and sustainable consumption and production by 2045 or our planet faces severe consequences.

If we do not change our consumption and production patterns to sustainable consumption and production, it is estimated that our oceans will contain more plastic than fish and the amount of ocean plastic will quadruple by 2050.

What is the short answer to the plastic crisis as a consumer?

Try to stop using plastic as much as possible and wherever you can. If you must use plastic, look for products with sustainable packaging. The effort for long term sustainable development and the safeguarding of bio diversity can be seen as an integrated and whole approach which includes you.

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