Cleaning Up the Oceans 5 Products at a Time

World Oceans Day Rubicon Global Ocean Clean Up

World Oceans Day Rubicon Global Ocean Clean Up

What do a body care company, yarn manufacturer, shoemaker, beach hut designer, and a fleet of floating screens have in common? They are all doing their part to address the overwhelming pollution plaguing our oceans.

Here are five companies finding effective ways to clean the oceans, educate the public, and create something useful in the process.

1. STREAM2SEA

A major contributor to ocean pollution is something you leave behind after swimming, snorkeling, or even fishing in the ocean. Namely sunscreen, hair care products, and silicone based body products.

Between 6,000 (half the Eiffel Tower) and 14,000 (the entire Brooklyn Bridge) tons of sunscreen wash off ocean venturing people to pollute our coral reefs annually (yes, even some of the waterproof versions). This sloughing is accelerating coral reef bleaching and poisoning certain species of the fish who call the reefs home.

The main contaminants are found in a few key ingredients – Oxybenzone (this can bleach coral and damage coral reefs) and Cyclopentasiloxane/Cyclomethicone – silicone-based ingredients used in skin and hair care products (these have been shown to be toxic to aquatic organisms).

To address these issues, Stream2Sea has created a line of products which are not only eco-conscious but also effective. All of their mineral sunscreens and body care products are made from natural, biodegradable ingredients. They are also tested safe for fish and coral larvae. From their Mineral Sunscreen for Body SPF 30 to their shampoo, body washes, and leave-in conditioner, Stream2Sea is doing their part to not only protect your skin but also to protect the oceans you choose to rub against it.

2. BIONIC

This company has been making waves in the past few years for their focus on uniting, “industry leading brands to substantially and measurably reduce ocean plastic.” Bionic is achieving this by engineering fully traceable high-grade textiles (three yarns: HLX®, DPX®, and FLX™) from recycled ocean pollution.

Each of these yarns serves a different function and is highly adaptable for a wide range of applications. They are currently used for everything from “roller shades and furniture to evening gowns and luggage” by clients such as Chanel, Burton Snowboards, and Timberland.

A little history…

  • In 2010 Grammy award-winning artist and producer Pharrell Williams became the company’s third partner and remains their acting Creative Director today.
  • In 2016 Bionic joined forces with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Waterkeeper Alliance. Waterkeeper Alliance is the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water which, according to Bionic, has united more than 300+ Waterkeepers Organizations and Affiliates in 37 countries patrolling and protecting 2.4 million square miles of watershed around the globe.
  • In 2017, Bionic further invested in Waterkeeper Alliance to create more jobs, work toward saving marine and coastal environments, and to educate local communities and the responsibility they have to provide environmental stewardship.

Bionic isn’t just cleaning up our oceans; they are leaving the world better than they found it.

3. PARLEY X COP21* & ADIDAS

For 68 years Adidas has been helping people stay fit. Now they are doing the same for our oceans with Parley (where creators, thinkers, and leaders collaborate to end the destruction of our oceans). Through their collaboration, they are turning pollution into a “3D-printed Futurecraft midsole made from ocean plastic.”

The shoe was unveiled at Parley x COP21: Oceans (a two-day summit of Parley Talks and Collaboration Sessions held parallel to the Paris climate change negotiations, with the goal of mobilizing the creative industries toward immediate action).

According to Parley, this 3D-printed midsole has yet to be perfect, but they have found a valuable lesson in the process itself: “If we wait for the perfect solution, there will be no solutions. Every action we take is a step forward. The worst thing any of us can do is nothing.”

Adidas is one of Parley’s founding members who support the communication and education efforts they implement via programs such as Parley A.I.R. (Avoid plastic wherever possible. Intercept plastic waste. Redesign your life.) It is through challenges like Parley’s and the leadership of major manufacturers like Adidas that we will find highly effective ways to make our oceans cleaner and healthier for generations to come.

4. SPARK

Inspired by the reuse of ocean plastic by Parley, Adidas, and Bionic’s Pharrell Williams, this team of designers is using their expertise in architecture, urbanism, and interior design to create beach huts fabricated from discarded plastic collected from the beaches and seas of Southeast Asia.

Spark’s intends for their huts to “animate the shoreline and provide rentable occasional accommodation for the many “beach campers” who frequent the park on the weekend.” While the huts will be functional they will also provide much needed public education about how the reckless dumping of plastic and other waste material has led to the current state of our highly polluted oceans.

These beach huts are cleaning the oceans from the outside in. The outer “skin” is manufactured from recycled HDPE (high-density polyethylene). HDPE is used to make a huge range of products from bottles to bags and is non-biodegradable so it makes sense that it also makes up a large percentage of the plastic polluting our oceans.

When most people see HDPE in the ocean they see an issue. When Spark sees HDPE in the ocean they see an opportunity. Even though HDPE is a horrible pollutant it also possesses flexible properties that make it ideal for a wide range of easy recyclable applications.

To create the huts Spark does the following after their ocean plastic recovery:

  • They color code and shred it
  • They reform it by reheating the plastic granules into a mold shaped in the form of a 3-dimensional stiff “scale” used to cover the beach hut much like a traditional roof tile or shingle
  • They create scales with varying degrees of solidity and transparency to create privacy and light
  • They print scales with thin-film PV (photovoltaic) to generate sufficient power to support the interior fan and general LED hut lighting

At the end of the day, the oceans are cleaner, the public is learning how to keep them that way, and Spark’s naturally ventilated and self-sustainable beach huts provide a unique and sustainable option for those seeking shelter.

5. THE OCEAN CLEANUP

The Ocean Cleanup is taking a grand approach to address ocean pollution. In 2013 this nonprofit was founded by Boyan Slat, an 18-year-old who believed that big problems such as ocean pollution require big solutions and, if all goes well, the above companies might have to eventually source their repurposed plastic elsewhere.

According to The Ocean Cleanup, a significant percentage of ocean plastic drifts into large systems of circulating currents known as gyres. When the plastic gets into these gyres it breaks down into microplastics, which are easy for sea life to mistake for food. Pursuing this debris is inefficient. This is why The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive system comprised of a water floater that holds sections of screens below the surface.

These floaters move with the currents, collect the debris, and lead it to a collection system.

According to Slat, “By deploying a fleet of systems, The Ocean Cleanup has estimated to be able to remove 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 5 years’ time. The concentrated plastic will be brought back to shore for recycling and sold to B2C companies. The revenue gained will help fund the cleanup expansion to the other four ocean gyres.”

In preparation for full-scale deployment, Slat’s team advanced its design through a series of scale model tests deployed in the North Sea in 2016 and 2017.

The nonprofit has stated that system trials off the American west coast will start in early 2018 and the first cleanup system deployment in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is scheduled to take place in mid-2018.

*COP 21: COP stands for Conference of the Parties, referring to the countries that have signed up to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 


Looking for more? Check out our blog Ocean Pollution: 14 Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

Editors Note: Rubicon is not affiliated with the companies referenced in the blog post, and any references to companies in the post are not meant to convey an endorsement of Rubicon by those companies in any way.