Where Does Recovered Beach Plastic Go?
By R. Heliot
As waves brush the shoreline, plastic ends up as debris found among our beaches. Since plastic doesn’t decompose quickly, it damages marine ecosystems, kills marine wildlife, and adds to the deterioration of our beautiful beaches.
As plastic travels deeper into the ocean, it tears up into smaller, sometimes tiny, pieces, which are referred to as microplastics. Ocean Blue Project is working to restore our one world ocean by using equipment to recover microplastic and plastic fragments from U.S. beaches.
The recovered beach plastic will be upcycled through partnerships with businesses looking to contribute to a brighter future for our marine ecosystems.
Each year, the average American consumes around 220 pounds of plastic, while corporations consume up to 6 million tons of plastic, per CBS News.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S Department of Commerce, an estimated 8 million metric tons of the plastic we consume ends up in our oceans.
Recent scandals and increased competition have led large, international corporations, such as Coca-Cola, to implement long-term eco-friendly solutions, such as ensuring their packaging and products are recyclable. This is the reason large corporations must be moved by the public to implement eco-friendly solutions to their operations.
Although many companies try to incorporate environmentally friendly protocols into their operations, many of them fail to implement long-term sustainable solutions. Up the chain of suppliers which contribute to a product’s development, there are often flaws in the system. These flaws contribute to pollution, such as plastic, in our oceans. This is the unfortunate challenge of supply chain management which crosses borders.
According to a 2018 article published by Harvard Business Journal, large, international corporations have issues implementing environmental standards throughout their supply chain, which often falls short of the standards of their home countries.
NOAA suggests two solutions to reduce the hazards plastic has on our beaches and oceans. The first is to reduce your plastic usage. For example, reducing the use of plastic water bottles by buying eco-friendly reusable bottles can have a massive impact on the overall reduction of plastic found in our oceans and beaches.
The second solution is to participate in ocean cleanup projects. Ocean Blue Project organizes beach, river, and ocean cleanup projects aimed to recover microplastics.
According to NOAA, “Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than 5 millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life (NOAA, 2020).” Cleanup projects aim to collect this debris found on beaches or in the ocean, referred to as microplastic recovery.
The importance behind microplastic recovery is immense. Unrecycled plastic ends up floating in our oceans, trapping marine life into grips of suffocation. It chokes out oxygen producing phytoplankton too, which is unsettling since the ocean is responsible for producing over half of the world’s oxygen. Once microplastics are recovered through ocean cleanup projects, it is sent to factories and transformed into recycled products, according to The Guardian.
These factories are often found in developing countries in Southeast Asia, where factories provide a more cost-effective solution for recycling corporations in the United States.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic are shipped annually to these countries, according to The Guardian. The world is in desperate need of a circular economy that eliminates waste and where all peoples of every country can live in harmony with our shared ecosystem. Recycling, or upcycling, plastics can reduce our dependence on virgin oil and natural gas byproducts to make plastic products.
Recycled plastic can become any product, which is why businesses can maintain profitability while using recycled microplastics. However, many large corporations lack the innovation to create recycled, eco-friendly products.
Conscientious companies, who build their businesses with the cause in mind, are leading the way for a cleaner ocean. For example, Boxed Water sells water packaged in 100% recycled material that allows reuse.
By partnering closely with organizations, such as Ocean Blue Project, with the same vision in mind, Boxed Water is able to ensure that they offer their consumers the highest quality drinking water with eco-friendly packaging.
Plastic with a Purpose
Corporations and non-profit organizations with the same vision in mind can collaborate to create better long-term sustainable solutions for eco-friendly products. Companies that use recycled plastic for packaging material or product design, such as those listed above, support the mission to keep our oceans clean.
According to Boxed Water, only 10% of plastic is recycled, and according to the NOAA, all kinds of goods we use on a daily basis can end up in our oceans and beaches. Description for this block. Use this space for describing your block. Any text will do. Description for this block. You can use this space for describing your block.
Teaching Ocean Cleanup Tools
Recovered microplastics found on beaches and shorelines often have been transformed by the ocean. It is common to find colorful litter, as the ocean erodes the plastic. This is when innovation meets nature.
Marine Debris kits are now being used as teaching tools for educators. Ocean Blue Project, for example, sells Ocean Debris Kits consisting of one pound of ocean plastic recovered through cleanup projects.
These kits are used to educate children of all ages about how our actions impact our ecosystems. Description for this block. Use this space for describing your block. Any text will do. Description for this block. You can use this space for describing your block.
A Word on Philanthropic Efforts
Philanthropy supporters, such as the Ohrstrom Foundation, help non-profit organizations and research facilities fund projects. These projects are key to understanding our impact on the ocean.
Scientists who study debris in the ocean have found that up to 60-90% of litter in the ocean are plastics, which have been found as far as the Arctic, according to Surfers Against Sewage.
These funds are imperative for finding solutions to our plastic waste Description for this block. Use this space for describing your block. Any text will do. Description for this block. You can use this space for describing your block.
Ocean Blue Project is a non-profit organization aimed at restoring marine ecosystems to a healthy state through action, education, and words.
Our water warriors organize microplastic cleanup projects throughout the US and educate the public about environmental pollution.
Our environmental news blog keeps you posted on the latest marine ecosystem news, as well as our work towards the restoration of beaches, rivers, and oceans.
Learn more about which of our partners and organizations are eco-friendly and keep our marine ecosystems in mind during product creation. Subscribe to our blog now.
Make a Donation
Ocean Blue Project is made up of volunteers who believe in our cause as much as we do. When you donate to Ocean Blue Project, you are donating to our four main programs aimed at restoring our marine ecosystems.
These include Microplastic Recovery, Cleanup Projects, Blue Streams & Rivers, and Blue Schools. All profits made from buying merchandise on our website go directly into our projects, not pockets. All proceeds fund our cause. Your donations make all the difference. Donate today! Description for this block. Use this space for describing your block. Any text will do. Description for this block. You can use this space for describing your block.
Volunteer with Us
Ocean Blue Project works with volunteers year-round. Find an event near you or enter our mailing list to receive the most up to date information on how to help.
Join us on our next beach, river or ocean cleanup project, and join our network of water warriors. Be part of our organization. See how your skills can make a difference. Ocean Blue Project works with university students, schools, private groups, and individuals. Connect with us and learn more about how you can contribute to our cause.
Author Bio: R. Heliot is a writer who has published articles for the Houston Chronicle and The Phnom Penh Post. She currently is a freelance copywriter and MBA student at the University of Houston-Victoria. In her spare time, she loves to travel, hike, and swim in the ocean.