The upcycling of ocean plastic waste

July 9th, 2018 / By: / EcoNote

According to Parley for the Oceans, recent studies indicate that at least 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 250,000 tons are now floating in the world’s oceans. The majority of the debris sinks or remains in the five areas of the oceans called vortexes. However, a significant percentage washes onto coastlines daily. The floating debris also has repercussions for a variety of sea creatures that become sick or die after ingesting plastic that’s floating in the midst of what they eat.

But collaborations among creative, scientific minds are working to create change, some of which result in textiles that use technology to raise awareness among consumers and produce something positive out of pollution by making a useful product.

Parley and Soma

Parley and drink bottle maker Soma have teamed up to create reusable BPA-free glass bottles wrapped in ocean plastic sleeves. The sleeves are made with recycled PET bottles, intercepted before reaching waterways, using Parley’s process of turning bottles into pellets and then melting the pellets into filament that becomes neoprene. The bottles, available at Starbucks in North America, reminds consumers to think about how to reduce plastics in their lives.

Parley and adidas

For Earth Day 2017, as part of a two-year partnership with Parley, adidas released three UltraBoost sneaker models that use marine plastic debris as part of their design. These models are constructed with a knit outer portion of the shoe woven from 95 percent Parley ocean plastic.By weaving intercepted ocean plastic into their designs, adidas set out to implement the Parley AIR strategy: avoiding virgin plastic, intercepting plastic waste and redesigning new alternatives.

“Every second breath we take is generated by the oceans, and still we are destroying them in rapid speed,” says Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans. “Together with adidas, we turned the severe threat of marine plastic pollution into an opportunity for the whole industry.”

The design is completed with laces, heel webbing, heel lining and sock liner covers made from recycled PET material.

Plastics prevention

The Rozalia Project has created the Cora Ball, designed to catch the plastic and chemical-covered strands released in the laundry. Every time we wash clothes, tiny fibers are washed down the drain and eventually end up in the sea.

Inspired by the way coral filters the ocean, the Cora Ball allows water to flow but catches up microfibers in its stalks as visible fuzz, “so we can dispose of microfibers in the right way,” says the Cora Ball website.

The product is made from 100 percent recycled and 100 percent recyclable soft, stretchy plastic. The Rozalia Project and its partners say they are looking forward to the day when the collected material, too, can be recycled “into new clothes or something durable and long lasting.”

Parley and platform

Sports textiles manufacturers, scientists and consumers can use their platforms as arenas of influence. A variety of products are reaching around the globe—from adidas uniforms for European soccer teams, to running shoes worn by nurses, to Soma’s neoprene sleeves for water bottles, to microfiber collection in the laundry tub.

New efforts and new companies are sending environmental awareness to the forefront and proving that intercepting and upcycling waste can be a good business model.