Companies That Turn Ocean Trash Into Stuff You Wear

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

The realization of the ocean plastic pollution problem was slow in coming, but this past year we've seen the issue explode (more or less) into public awareness. Maybe it's because of all the plastic washing up on shore or seabirds found dead with their gullets full of the stuff. It can seem an insurmountable challenge if you let it, but solutions always start with the first step. Here are some companies taking the lead and what you can do, one step at a time.

The oceans are filled with plastic pollution. An estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic are currently in the world’s oceans, and eight million metric tons enter the oceans annually, which is equivalent to the weight of 90 aircraft carriers. Plastic has been found in over 60 percent of all seabirds and in 100 percent of sea turtles species. The animals mistake small pieces of plastic food, which causes serious health problems.

It should not come as a surprise that plastic pieces are floating in our oceans. Plastic is everywhere in our homes. The keyboard I am typing this article on is made of plastic parts. Much of the food and beverages we buy are packaged in plastic. We put our trash into plastic bags. All of that plastic can and is making its way into the ocean. Plastic does not decompose so it sticks around in the environment for a long time.

Recycling ocean plastic

Out of all the plastic produced, only about five percent of it is reclaimed. Some companies are using recovered ocean plastic to make clothing and shoes. While natural fibers are great, there is nothing like recovering plastic that is toxic for marine life and turning it into something people can wear. It gives a whole new meaning to the saying from trash to treasure. 

The Adidas x Parley collection turns ocean plastic into shoes and athletic wear

Repreve, a subsidiary of Unifi, Inc., makes textiles from recycled plastic. Its Repreve Our Ocean fiber is made from plastic bottles collected within 31 miles of coastlines in countries and areas lacking recycling systems. The reason they collect from coastlines in areas lacking recycling systems is that plastic waste is higher in areas that lack them.

Jay Hertwig, Senior Vice President of Global Brand Sales for Unifi, describes Repreve Our Ocean as a “premium collection of fiber and resin sourced from bottles at high risk of entering in the ocean.” 

A Different Ball Game uses ocean plastic to create everything from clothing, tents, and umbrellas

A company with a different name, A Different Ball Game created a range of products made with 75 to 100 percent of recycled ocean plastics. The products include hats, umbrellas, raincoats, soccer jerseys, tents, and hoodies. For every kilo of fiber that is produced from ocean plastic to make its products, one kilo of waste is retrieved from the ocean. The company donates 10 percent of all its sales to the World Wildlife Fund and 10 percent to the organization, Football For Peace.

What you can do

There is always something you can do to help solve the world’s environmental problems. Plastic ocean pollution is no exception. Begin by using less plastic. Swap bottled water for a reusable water bottle. Use reusable grocery bags. Those are simple steps anyone can take. 


Oceans & Forests