It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans each year, much of it being washed down streets to urban rivers and out to sea. Businesses are increasingly interested in how they can prevent this - going beyond “doing less harm” to help solve environmental problems such as this. What’s behind their motivation? They see growing demand from consumers for more transparency and less environmental impact in their products.
NextWave Plastics is a network of companies working to design new supply chains for ocean-bound plastics. Ocean-bound plastics are often single-use plastics that are on their way to the ocean. These can be plastics found on a beach or in a river, but this initiative also includes plastic fishing nets, often disposed of in the ocean, that are collected through takeback community programs with fishermen. The consortium was established by Lonely Whale, an ocean conservation non-profit known for elevating solutions to plastic pollution, and aims to provide a space to inspire new supply chains and new systems. According to Dune Ives, Managing Director at Lonely Whale (the convener of NextWave Plastics), “Today, NextWave member companies are preventing plastic from reaching the ocean by demonstrating that ocean-bound plastics carry a commercial value, and in doing so, are raising awareness across the global manufacturing community.”
One of NextWave Plastics’ original members is Bureo, a company that makes skateboards, sunglasses and surf fins. What started as a B2C niche product, has grown into a program called NetPlus® where they provide recycled plastic made of 100% recycled fishing nets to companies like Patagonia, Humanscale, and Trek. Bureo collects discarded fishing nets through a program called Net Positiva which facilitates waste disposal points for plastic fishing nets off the coast of Chile and provides incentives for the collection of discarded materials. Patagonia and Bureo created a short film, A Net Plus | Giving Discarded Fishing Nets a New Start, highlighting Bureo’s story that began in Chile with a mission to end fishing pollution to help protect our ocean.
Members have grown to include large scale categories and companies like HP, who have built a fully functioning ocean-bound plastics supply chain using bottles collected in Haiti where there is limited waste collection. This effort began in 2016 when HP began partnering with the First Mile Coalition, an initiative that supports waste collectors in Haiti. The early program converted plastic bottles into recycled material used in Original HP ink cartridges and HP continues to expand this program, using ocean-bound plastics in more products.
Clara Carrière, from HP Sustainable Impact Department, described the company’s commitment to supporting innovation and ocean conservation: “At HP, we are constantly innovating new ways to design out waste and use materials responsibly. It’s important that our customers can choose from products made sustainably with recycled materials and have access to convenient recycling options through HP Planet Partners. For example, we’ve sourced more than 1 million pounds of ocean-bound plastic for use in our products, and we are on track with our plans to increase post consumer recycled content in our products to 30% by 2025. We also intend to eliminate 75% of single-use plastic from our packaging over the next five years. As a result, we are designing and delivering our most sustainable portfolio—keeping materials in use at their highest value state for as long as possible and continuing to drive greater materials and energy efficiency at all stages.”
Other companies have seen growth in consumer demand for recycled content and are leading this by using ocean-bound plastic, including Dell, Interface and Humanscale. As large B2B manufacturers strive to meet this demand, the positive effect of programs like this can scale. “Buyers have more power than they think to influence the materials and processes that manufacturers use. B2B buyers, procurement officers, and construction teams are in a position to be some of the most powerful environmentalists on the planet in the way they can influence upstream design.” according to Kathleen Egan, ecomedes CEO and board member of 5 Gyres, another conservation organization focused on eliminating plastic pollution from our oceans.
Here are five sustainable companies using recycled ocean-bound plastics. These products are sustainable in more ways than just the recycled content. Increasingly, buyers have demands that encompass multiple dimensions of impact. Their full sustainability fingerprint can be found on the ecomedes product portal.
1. Interface Net Effect Collection Carpet Tiles
Interface’s Net Effect carpet tile line is inspired by the ocean (two of the colors are called “Pacific” and “Atlantic”) with all of the products in the Net Effect product line made of recycled fishing lines. Net-Works® is their innovative initiative designed to take discarded fishing nets and recycle them in carpet. This program supports Interface’s sustainability goals to source recycled content and aligns with the Live Zero goal of Interface's Climate Take BackTM mission. Interface started this program in the Philippines and it has now expanded to Cameroon. Interface partners with the Zoological Society of London to buy the discarded fishing nets, and the nets are turned into new yarn for their carpet by Aquafil, a company that creates nylon thread out of fishing nets that is used for a number of products, including bathing suits and carpets.
Check out Interface’s Net Effect tiles in Pacific blue (B701) on the ecomedes - here
2. HP Elite Dragonfly Notebook Computer
HP is now using recycled ocean-bound plastics in their HP Elite notebook computers, a new program that launched in 2020. Additionally, HP is using recycled ocean-bound plastics in the HP EliteDisplay E273d desktop display (the world’s first display manufactured with ocean-bound plastics), and the Original HP ink cartridges (which they have been making of ocean-bound plastics since 2016). The fact that HP is expanding their programs from ink cartridges to computers is a strong indication of their commitment to this program. Additionally, HP has an established takeback program for their ink cartridges, where customers can sign up online to have a postage-paid cartridge recycling envelope delivered to their house. Both of these efforts highlight the steps that HP is taking to make more sustainable electronics.
Check out HP’s Elite Dragonfly notebook computer on ecomedes - here
3. Humanscale Diffrient Smart™ Ocean Chair
Humanscale’s Diffrient Smart™ Ocean chair has the same features and aesthetic, including the Form-Sensing Mesh Technology and seamless functionality, as the well known Diffrient Smart chair created by designer Niels Diffrient. But the Smart™ Ocean chair uses recycled plastic made of fishing nets that would ultimately end up in our oceans (or landfills in coastal communities). Humanscale has partnered with Bureo’s NetPlus® to source the recycled plastic used in their chairs. Smart Ocean is the first-ever task chair to incorporate recycled ocean plastics in its material composition and is also Living Product Challenge-certified.
Check out Humanscale’s Diffrient Smart™ Ocean chair on ecomedes - here
4. Packaging for Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Laptop
Dell is using recycled plastic (with 25% composed of ocean-bound plastics) to package their laptops in the XPS 13 series. Dell also has a takeback program for all Dell products where customers can mail back old computers and electronics to be recycled and reused at Dell. Additionally, Dell has been supportive of many ocean programs and initiatives, supporting and elevating programs such as the NextWaves Plastic Initiative.
Check out Dell’s Dell XPS 13 on ecomedes - here
5. Herman Miller
Herman Miller has taken steps to incorporate ocean-bound plastics into their products, starting with using reusable bins, made by Orbis Corporation, where the companies worked together to incorporate ocean-bound plastics into the fabrication of the reusable bins. These bins are used to ship parts between factories, a simple concept that saves a significant amount of waste from entering local waste streams. Additionally, their RePurpose Program allows companies to donate their old office furniture to other entities that give the furniture new life, helping to further eliminate old products from ending up in local waste streams.
A Growing Consensus
According to Lonely Whale’s recent podcast, 52 Hertz, Gabe Wing, Herman Miller’s Sustainability Director, and Jane Abernethy, Humanscale’s Chief of Sustainability, both agreed that bringing companies together through NextWave Plastics was an opportunity to share knowledge and collaborate on reaching sustainability goals within their own companies.
If your company is advancing the use of recycled plastics in your products, contact us at ecomedes.com/contact - we’d love to hear from you!