With all the attention that plastic marine litter is getting around the world, it's nice to see plastics-related companies step up and do something about the problem.
The latest: recycler Envision Plastics Industries LLC of Reidsville, N.C., and Method Products Inc., a San Francisco-based household and cleaning products maker.
The two companies have spent the past 18 months working on a way to recycle ocean litter. Plastics News staff reporter Mike Verespej was on hand to witness the first batch of pellets stream off the production line March 1 at Envision's Chino, Calif., plant. Verespej reported how executives from both companies beamed with pride and pumped their fists as the black pellets were loaded into 1,200-pound boxes.
Method plans to use the post-consumer plastic to make a blow molded package that will reach grocery-store shelves later this year.
The Method and Envision executives have no delusions that their work can clean up the Pacific Gyre. But the companies want to raise awareness of the need to recycle plastic. And that's a step that should also help with the marine litter problem.
Parham Yedidsion, a co-owner of Envision Plastics, said his firm got involved in the project because it sends the right message.
“It's something we've worked together on for longer than a year,” he said.
Ocean scrap was difficult to recycle. It required a lot of hand- and optical-sorting, and Envision had to create a blend that would work in Method's packaging.
That's the real-world, plastics processing part of the story. But don't lose sight of the fact that this project is about raising awareness of the value of plastic, and of the need to take action on the plastic litter problem.
Method employees worked with schoolchildren and beach-cleaning groups to collect material for the initial production run on Kahuku Beach in Hawaii.
“It's an eye-opening, surreal experience to go there and see it,” said Method's Rudi Becker. “Sometimes, it's overwhelming because the beach is no cleaner when you are done than when you started because more plastics scrap washes up before you're done.”
And this is just the first step in Method's plan to raise awareness of the plastics pollution problem. Next, the company plans to work with beach cleanup organizations all over the world to set up a network to intercept and recycle plastic waste.
It almost goes without saying that many others are pushing another solution for the plastic litter problem: banning plastic products. The industry needs to realize that if more companies don't take action — like Method and Envision — the forces that support bans will continue to make headway.
And this isn't just about fighting bans. It's about doing what's best for the planet.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”