15 Brilliant Products Made from Recycled Ocean Plastics
From clothing and accessories to furniture and household goods, choosing sustainably sourced goods is a step in the right direction for our planet's future.
Many companies have committed to using recycled materials or fewer materials in their products or packaging over the years, but now there’s a growing list of products manufactured solely or in part from plastics sourced directly from our oceans. And this recycling revolution couldn’t come at a better time for our planet.
“With a dump truck of plastic waste entering our oceans every minute, the environmental impacts to this important ecosystem are devastating,” says Erin Simon, head, Plastic Waste and Business at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “From sea turtles to whales, plastic pollution is wreaking havoc on ocean life through ingestion, entanglement and habitat loss due to pollution.”
Simon explains that while upcycling products made from plastic waste is part of the solution, unfortunately, there is no single, simple way to combat this global crisis. “It will take a holistic approach across all sectors to arrive at a future where plastic materials are recaptured and used for another purpose instead of ending up in landfills or further damaging precious habitats,” Simon says.
In the meantime, you can be a small part of the solution simply by supporting companies who make sustainability their mission, including these 22 big companies that are getting rid of plastic for good.
It would be hard to imagine a day at the ocean without a great pair of sunglasses. How cool would it be to wear a pair that were crafted out of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) ocean plastics recovered from the canals and coastlines of Haiti? Norton Point’s Whitecap II unisex polarized sunglasses feature mirrored lenses and are made from recycled ocean plastic. The company also reinvests 5 percent of net profits into research, education and development efforts toward curtailing the impact of ocean plastic. Need more proof that this is a good idea? See how beautiful the world’s most polluted beaches used to be.
If you could walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, why not choose Adidas? Its collection of Parley products—including the Alphabounce+ Parley running shoe—is made with Parley Ocean Plastic™️, which is collected by partner organizations on shorelines and coastal areas such as the Maldives. Last month, Adidas donated its first sustainable football field made from Parley Ocean Plastic to Miami Edison High School; it was made from 1.8 million recycled plastic bottles intercepted from coastal communities, beaches, and oceans. While you’re focused on being part of the solution, consider adopting these 20 tiny everyday changes you can make to help the environment.
For more than 3 billion people worldwide, flip-flops are the only shoes they own. Unfortunately, these flip-flops are often discarded into urban dumpsites that seep into the earth’s waterways and descend into the oceans. Ocean Sole upcycles discarded flip-flops that wash ashore in Kenya—that accounted for more than half a million flip flops in 2017 alone—and local artisans turn them into colorful sculptures and handcrafted works of art. The company provides a steady income to nearly 100 low-income Kenyans and contributes 10 to 15 percent of its revenue to beach cleanups, vocational and educational programs, and conservation efforts. Interestingly, Kenya has the strictest plastic bag ban in the world and will be ridding the country of single-use plastics by June 2020.
No need to shoulder the burden of protecting our planet all by yourself. Let Solgaard’s Shore-Tex backpacks and fanny packs—made from plastic waste collected from beaches and riverways in the Philippines—help. Upon collection, the plastic is then cleaned, processed into flakes and heated into pellets, before being stretched into a yarn-like fiber and woven into a functional fabric. Items from this collection are shipped in a zero-waste packaging solution: water-resistant reversible tote bags. Additionally, Solgaard has pledged to remove 5 pounds of plastic waste from the ocean for every product purchased from its sustainable design portfolio, comprised of luggage, backpacks, bags, wearable tech accessories, and luxury timepieces. In 2019, the company pulled 75,000 pounds of plastic waste from the ocean. Find out 14 mysteries of the oceans scientists still can’t explain.
Most people simply shake their heads at plastic strewn all over a beach. But, after coming across a heavily plastic polluted beach in Bali during a surf trip in 2017, Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze decided something more needed to be done. They started 4ocean and began cleaning the oceans themselves. Eventually, they began hiring local fishermen. Three years later, 4ocean has pulled 8 million pounds of plastic from oceans and coastlines, developed and introduced new ocean cleaning technologies, and has held volunteer-led beach cleanup events around the country. They’ve also introduced several new products—such as single-use alternative drinkware, sustainable apparel items, and dozens of bracelets—hand-assembled in Bali from recycled plastic and bottles. In addition to their headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, 4ocean has operational bases and crews in Bali, Haiti, and Guatemala where they are tackling the Rio Motagua river and the infamous “Trash Islands.” Speaking of dolphins, learn about the rarest dolphin species in the world.
Many companies use recycled plastic in elements of their packaging—but salon professional haircare brand Kevin Murphy is doing something more, by reinventing its signature squared packaging to be 100 percent made from recycled ocean materials. The plastic is collected via trawler boats, transported to a sorting facility, shredded and separated by plastic-type (to make sure all the contaminants are removed), washed, melted and processed into granulates, and then made into a shampoo bottle. The new packaging is projected to save the planet over 360 tons of new plastic each year; for every Kevin Murphy product sold, an average of 45 grams of plastic is removed from the oceans. The right way to travel, according to environmental experts, includes bringing your own hair care products to avoid using single-use items in hotels—so be sure to pour these into smaller, TSA-friendly bottles when you’re heading out of town.
Maine and lobster go together like peanut butter and jelly—but a robust lobster industry also means lots of discarded lobster rope. So husband-and-wife team Jeanine O’Brien and Tim Barthelman launched Wharf Warp and set out on a mission to reduce our ocean’s pollution crisis by creating products from polypropylene rope (yep, plastic!) upcycled from the local lobstering community. In 2016, they reclaimed 12 tons of lobster rope that was part of a 2009 lobster rope buyback program and have artfully turned it into 100 percent upcycled vibrant doormats, wreaths, and garland. The doormats, for instance, are handmade by weaving 220 feet (or 6 pounds) of rope. Makes a great eco-friendly gift for new homeowners.
Fishing nets and single-use water bottles aren’t the only plastic ending up in our oceans—sailcloth is another offender. Sailors, particularly racers, depend on top-performing sails, which means they get replaced when their life on the open sea comes to an end. Since there’s still a lot of life left in a “worn-out” sail, Sea Bags decided to design stylish and durable bags, totes and accessories made from recycled sailcloth containing Dacron, a polyester fiber (read: plastic). Through its recycling and upcycling efforts, Sea Bags has helped keep over 700 tons of sailcloth out of landfills and our oceans. Signs of hard sailing can be found on each product, making them one-of-a-kind pieces. These 13 beautiful islands may disappear before the end of the century due to rising waters.
Green thumb? Black thumb? It hardly matters with Lettuce Grow, a product that easily turns recycled milk jugs into food-growing gardens in your own yard. These self-watering, self-fertilizing hydroponic vertical vegetable gardens (called Farmstands) are made from ocean-bound recycled plastic. Lettuce Grow is on a mission to change our food system, working to close the gap on food mileage and resource waste, while helping re-establish an experiential connection with the food we eat. You can grow more than 200 varieties of fresh herbs, veggies, fruits and more in just three weeks, after spending only about five minutes on “farming” duties each week. And all of this is accomplished while using 95 percent less water than conventional growing methods. So far, the company has rescued about 80,000 jugs and saved 8 million gallons of water.
Keep sustainability top of mind with a Mariner Beanie made from 100 percent recycled polyester on top of your head. United By Blue only uses sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing facilities. Recycled polyester gives you the same technical performance you get in virgin polyester, with a vastly smaller footprint. It provides a valuable use for post-consumer and post-industrial plastic (which may otherwise end up floating endlessly in our oceans) and weakens our dependency on petroleum as the raw material for our apparel needs. For every product sold, UBB removes 1 pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways. To date, they’ve removed more than 2.2 million pounds of trash with the help of 15,000+ volunteers at over 250+ group cleanups.
Have you heard the term “ghost net”? Well, it’s as scary as it sounds: It’s a fishing net that’s been lost or abandoned in the ocean—and they are typically made of nylon and other plastic compounds. According to the WWF, they can pose a serious threat to coral reef and marine life by entangling sea turtles, dolphins, and porpoises, birds, sharks seals and more. Leonisa, a lingerie and shapewear line, is launching a new eco-friendly swimwear collection called Love for the Seas that’s made with recycled fishing nets that were removed from the ocean. Once the nets are removed from the bottom of the sea, they are transformed from nets to fibers and provided to Leonisa. The brand then turns the fiber into fabric, producing environmentally sound and highly fashionable swimwear.
While many people are taking a stand for sustainability, you can also take a seat for it—in Humanscale’s Smart Ocean high-performance task chair that’s made of almost 2 pounds of recycled fishing nets. The furniture manufacturer has partnered with Bureo, a company formed to combat ocean plastic pollution. Its Net Positiva program educates and incentivizes local fishermen, encouraging them to recycle their own used nets. The end result? To date, Bureo has collected over 180,000 pounds of discarded fishing nets. The nets are then transformed into plastic pellets and Humanscale manufactures them into this ergonomic task chair that’s also Living Product certified. Learning these 11 seafood facts will change how you eat seafood forever.
It’s important for children to start learning about marine life at a young age, so start their education at the beach or during bath time with Green Toys’ OceanBound Plastic Tide Pool Set. It contains a variety of “shells,” including a starfish, scallop, abalone, snail, squid, and jellyfish in a handy storage container. The pieces are made from 100% recycled OceanBound Plastic, a sustainable product made from plastic at risk of entering our oceans along coastlines in global communities that lack recycling infrastructure. Plus, they are manufactured in the USA, don’t contain BPA, phthalates or PVC, and are dishwasher safe. And while you’re having those important conversations with your little ones, also talk about these 25 simple swaps you can make to save the earth today.
Looking to further increase sustainability while on the go? Consider the Hanover 2 from Lo & Sons. This lightweight travel backpack is made from eco-friendly materials—in fact, the super-durable exterior is 600D high-density, water-resistant polyester that’s made from recycled plastic bottles that may have otherwise ended up in landfills and oceans. Recycled poly boasts a 79 percent lower carbon footprint than virgin polyester, and it uses up to 90 percent less water during production. The Hanover 2 has a sleeve for resting on top of your suitcase, it holds a 13-inch laptop snugly in a dedicated compartment, and the empty bag weighs in at less than 2 pounds. There’s even a water bottle pocket insert that’s perfect for your reusable stainless-steel bottle.
You can never have enough backpacks, especially when they come in as many fun colors as the Re-Kånken from Swedish company Fjällräven. The fabric, webbing, and lining for this special-edition bag are made entirely from yarn that’s spun from polyester recycled from 11 plastic bottles; it’s then dyed with a special technology that reduces the amount of water, energy, and chemicals used in the process. This backpack boasts a simple design, with two flat side pockets and a zippered front pocket, adjustable shoulder straps, and the iconic embroidered logo displayed front and center. For more ways to help the environment, read this story of a woman who’s been plastic-free for 6 years—and check out what she uses instead.
Humanscale is the leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance ergonomic products that improve the health and comfort of work life. Through leveraging new technology in functional yet minimal designs, Humanscale transforms traditional offices into active, intelligent workspaces. Committed to making a net positive impact on the earth as well as our customers, Humanscale offers award-winning products designed with a focus on function, simplicity and longevity.