Living Here Living In Hong Kong

Companies helping to save our seas

By: Melinda Murphy

Just look at the gorgeous outfit below by Ecoalf. Stunning, right? Believe it or not, they’re made with recycled plastic found in the ocean, such as plastic bottles and fishing nets. It’s all part of the company’s “Upcycling the Oceans” programme, started in Spain in 2015 and now in Thailand, too. The company takes old, ocean plastic and turns it into yarn. That means you can support Mother Earth and look fabulous doing it. Ecoalf is just one of many amazing companies out there repurposing plastic found in the ocean to create cool stuff.

Ecolaf

Why not welcome people to your home with a doormat out of old fishing nets or lobster ropes (which, incredibly, make up ten percent of ocean plastic)? Just do a google search and you’ll find a wealth of choices. Need a skateboard? How about sunglasses? Buy either from Bureo, a company that uses recycled fishing nets from Chile for plastic. It also makes Jenga Ocean, a version of the popular game made from fishing nets.

Bureo

Maybe you need a little pampering. Why not take care of the Earth, too? Lush Cosmetics has teamed up with The Ocean Legacy Foundation, buying plastic found in the ocean to use to make containers for their products.

Or perhaps you want to trick out your house with a unique piece of furniture by Brodie Neill, who has created some stunning designs using recycled marine plastic.

Saving the oceans - Brodie Neil
Brodie Neill

Adidas has partnered with conservation organisation Parley for the Oceans to make athletic shoes designed by Stella McCartney out of recycled ocean plastic, the Parley Ultraboost X. Just think: with every step you take, you’re getting fit while helping out Dory and her friends!

Saving the oceans - adidas

Of course, using marine debris isn’t that easy. Recovered plastic is often degraded and covered with algae and barnacles. So, before it can be used, it has to be cleaned, sorted and broken down into small bits. It’s an expensive and painstaking process, partly the reason most recovered ocean plastic ends up in landfills, which isn’t ideal either.

So why go to all the trouble?

According to the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a nonprofit group that spearheaded a massive three-year research study, our oceans are a toxic soup with 1.8 trillion pieces of swirling marine debris weighing 88,000 tons – the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets. The scary news? This new figure is 16 times higher than previous estimates.

Besides the stuff that washes up on shore, the ocean has five massive pockets of trash called garbage gyres, calm spots in the middle of a bunch of currents where the world’s marine trash accumulates. The largest of these is known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, which is twice the size of France and growing (yikes!). Ninety percent of this floating trash heap is plastic and there is even more on the bottom of the ocean floor as 70 percent of marine plastic sinks. Most of it can’t be seen with a plane or satellite as it’s broken into tiny bits. The scariest part is that it ends up in our food supply when fish eat it; in fact, a Bluewater study from February of this year shows that three of every four fish living in our deepest waters have been found to have ingested plastics with additives such as flame retardants and colourants that could endanger human health for generations. How about a serving of toxic chemicals with that seafood you’re eating?

Asia is the biggest contributor to plastics that end up in our ocean. In fact, 95 percent of such plastics come from just ten rivers, eight of them right here in Asia. Interestingly, one small city in the Philippines has come up with a great idea that seems to be working: pay people to sort through the trash and bring it to a central collection spot rather than spending the money on trash trucks. After just two years, 78 percent of trash there is now recycled or composted. And Taiwan just announced a blanket ban on all single-use plastic by 2030.

The absolute best way to help is to stop making trash. The Ocean Legacy Foundation has something they call the “Oath of the 8 Rs”: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Re-Gift, Recover, Recycle, Refuse, Rethink. Those goals aren’t too lofty.

In the end, it really is up to you and me. If you want your grandkids to snorkel, enjoy an order of fish and chips, or even just play at the beach, then substitute that plastic water bottle for a reusable one. It’s not that hard. We all just have to do a little better, one water bottle at a time. Heck, even the Queen of England is trying! She’s just banned all plastic straws and bottles from the Royal Estates. If the Royals can do it, so can we.

And don’t forget: the other thing you can do is shop. Help the planet by buying something made from marine plastic. Let’s keep these ocean saviours in business one recycled item at a time.

Brodie Neill Furniture | brodieneill.com
Bureo | bureo.co
Ecoalf | ecoalf.com
EPA | www.epa.gov
G-Star RAW | g-star.com
Lush Cosmetics | lush.com
Norwex Movement | norwexmovement.com
Parley for the Oceans | parley.tv/#fortheoceans
The Ocean Legacy Foundation | oceanlegacy.ca

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This article first appeared in the June/July 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.