There may not be a more publicized subject in plastics recycling these days than ocean pollution.
And one plastics recycler, after working behind the scenes for years, has taken a much more public approach to finding solutions.
Envision Plastics, a unit of Consolidated Container Corp., is a major processor of high density polyethylene with locations in both Reidsville, N.C., and Chino, Calif.
The company, for years, simply acted as a hired processor for companies looking to use plastics recovered from or near oceans for special packaging.
Truth be told, it was not "even a drop in the bucket," said Tamsin Ettefagh, vice president of sales at Envision. "We were never a buyer of ocean plastics. We were never a seller of ocean plastics," she explained. "We were a toll processor for others."
But the company realized it wanted, and needed, to do more to promote the use of these plastics.
"After 10 years, we were kind of disappointed with the lack of volume and participation by CPGs on that activity," she said.
So the company has created a program to ramp up the recycling of ocean bound plastics.
Plastics in oceans are a recognized problem. But plastics littered along waterways that lead to oceans are also a threat to the environment. That's why there is a growing emphasis on collecting these materials before they are swept into the water and end up with the fish.
Envision has created a line of resin called OceanBound Plastic that is completely made from recycled plastic collected from at-risk areas.
Primal Group is packaging its Vita brand of personal care items in bottles made from 100 percent OceanBound Plastic from Envision, the world's first containers to use the material.
"OceanBound is from at-risk areas that don't have public access to waste disposal or recycling. We're not in the waste hauling business, but we are in the recycling business, so we're trying to provide that recycling part of it," Ettefagh said at the recent Plastics Recycling 2018 conference in Nashville.
Envision's early attempts to recycle plastics recovered in Haiti did not go so well, with odor being a big problem, she remembered. But the company has since developed techniques to tackle that issue as well as sort the material by color. "We just have some differentiated type of technologies that open the door for us," she said.
Envision now is looking to help develop bigger markets for its OceanBound Plastics. It has already processed more than 3 million pounds of recycled resin into that product line. The company, in 2017, committed to recycling 10 million pounds of plastics at risk of entering oceans.
With supply outstripping demand at this point, the company has decided to blend its OceanBound Plastic resin in with its traditional post-consumer resin to use the material without people even noticing. The company is looking to spur additional demand for the product.
"There's a lot of attention being given to this and there's a lot more information coming on line every day about marine debris. What is it? What do we know about it? What are the gaps. So there's a lot more information surfacing about this topic," said Eric DesRoberts, manager of the Trash Free Seas Program at the Ocean Conservancy.
"I spend most of my day thinking about marine debris and ocean plastics. Sometimes it's a little bit challenging and depressing," he said.