There are three big problems with plastic waste in the ocean, and two are obvious — how we clean it up, and how we stop it from getting there in the first place. The third problem isn’t as obvious, and it’s not as simply answered — what do we do with all the plastic waste once it’s been taken out of the ocean? There’s tons and tons of it out there, and while leaving it there to hurt the ecosystem of the oceans is bad, throwing it all in landfills doesn’t seem like a great solution either.
Enter recycling. Many individuals and companies have been hard at work finding uses for all that plastic waste so it doesn’t just end up trashing the land instead of the sea. And there are some really cool products, including clothes, to come out of the movement!
It’s not a perfect solution. A lot of that ocean plastic is discarded fishing equipment, and some have discovered that that stuff is very difficult to recycle using the most common methods. Even for simpler items like plastic bottles, there’s an environmental cost to transporting all that stuff, breaking it all down, and then packaging and shipping new products (which could eventually become waste themselves). The most vexing problem might have to do with clothes — when washed, clothes made in part with ocean waste shed plastic-infused microfibers that enter water supplies and are very hard to filter out.
The news isn’t all bad! In this list, there are some really clever products that avoid some or all of those problems. Even for those that don’t, there’s hope — there are now washing bags that can prevent those microfibers from leaking into the water supply through your washing machine. It’s all enough to make us hopeful that these recycled ocean plastic products are just the start of something great!