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Waste Not
Curbing Ocean Plastic Waste:
Is Your Brand Missing the Boat?

Reducing plastic waste is a winning issue for consumers. With so many examples of early success and ROI, there’s no better time to join the movement by committing to reduce plastic pollution and limiting the need for virgin plastic.

From the ever-growing Great Pacific Garbage Patch to viral videos of extracting plastic straws from the noses of sea turtles and reports of microplastics found in our seafood, there is an ongoing awakening among consumers and the brands they love about the global impacts of marine plastic pollution. Even if you live miles and miles away from the coast, ocean plastic impacts everyone.

This awareness has supercharged some brands to initiate significant changes in their practices with an aim to curb the volume of plastic waste entering our waterways and oceans. Those actions are now creating meaningful, measurable changes.

Some of these moves are more visible than others. When Starbucks announced it was eliminating plastic straws and Unilever partnered with TerraCycle’s Loop platform to begin reusing packaging for its deodorant and body spray products, it made the news. Meanwhile, other brands are quietly shifting thousands of tonnes per month to ocean-bound or other PCR (post-consumer recycled) sources in their quest to hit aggressive recycled-content targets for 2025 and 2030.

While each individual effort may only scratch the surface on undoing the damage already done and limiting additional pollution going forward, these initiatives deserve the thanks and recognition they’re receiving. They’re making real progress while also inspiring other brands to take their own action.

Real change, real results

While many brands’ sustainability efforts don’t get the same press as a Starbucks or a Unilever, there are countless companies making their own waves with new products and packaging that truly change the game when it comes to reducing demand for virgin plastic resin.

For example, trash bags may not be the sexiest product for solving the ocean plastic crisis, but Glad has created Glad to Be Green kitchen trash bags made from 50 percent recycled ocean-bound plastic. Not only does each roll recycle the equivalent of two 2-liter plastic bottles, they’re also made with 50 percent less virgin plastic.

This represents a double-win for the environment, as ocean-bound plastic waste gets removed and recycled instead of polluting the ocean — and further reduces the need for additional virgin plastic. Those volumes add up quickly, as Glad to Be Green bags have already averted 230 metric tons of plastic headed for the ocean.

Sperry is a consumer brand synonymous with the water, as its footwear and trusty tread are a mainstay for seafaring civilians. Its SeaCycled sneaker features liners and laces made from 100 percent recycled plastic and uppers made with a blend also partially composed of recycled plastic. Each pair of these shoes repurposes the equivalent of five recycled plastic bottles, creating a much smaller carbon footprint with each step they take.

Even our pets have a role to play in reducing plastic pollution. WestPaw’s Seaflex line of dog toys and accessories gives Fidos a chance to play, drink and eat with products made from a blend of recycled ocean plastic and WestPaw’s proprietary zero-waste Zogoflex material. These durable dog toys and accessories are safe for pooches while making the planet’s oceans a little safer as well.

Inspiring innovation

Any brand can easily reduce their plastic waste and incorporate recycled ocean plastic. Too often inaction turns out to just be a case of not knowing where to start. Luckily, there are many examples to follow and solution providers ready to help turn ideas into reality.

Companies such as Oceanworks help brand partners explore the many opportunities available to reduce their reliance on virgin plastic and include recycled material in their design and manufacturing processes — from identifying which parts and products are best suited for a switch to figuring out the best recycled materials source to securing samples for test runs.

But making great products with ocean plastic is only the first piece of the puzzle. Brands understandably want to leverage their materials innovations to engage their audience and ultimately increase sales. The key is reaching them with a simple, clear message that highlights the brand impact and commitment to the cause.

Experience has shown the most effective campaigns connect the consumer’s action — purchasing a product made from recycled ocean or ocean-bound plastic — with its measurable environmental benefits, such as reducing a certain amount of plastic waste from reaching the ocean. Consumers see the concrete positive impact of their potential purchase, making them more likely to take that action and share it with others.

Maintaining momentum

It is still early days in the circular economy. There is much more work to be done and countless opportunities for brands to make a meaningful impact and differentiate themselves through these efforts. Reducing plastic waste is a winning issue for consumers; brands should continually challenge themselves to both identify opportunities and make the most of their efforts by incorporating this push toward sustainability in their marketing and messaging.

Beyond the visible campaigns, many leading brands have made reducing their reliance on virgin plastic part of their near-term sustainability strategies. Coca-Cola aims to recycle one bottle for each one it produces by 2030, while Evian aims to use 100 percent recycled plastic for its water bottles by 2025. Multiple airlines are moving away from straws and other single-use plastics; and at least 75 percent of the Estée Lauder Companies’ packaging will be recyclable, refillable, reusable, recycled or recoverable by 2025.

Actions such as these pressure the rest of their respective industries while simultaneously creating an ROI for their efforts by boosting their brand reputations and visibility. When competitors see a brand winning over consumers and claiming additional market share thanks to eco-conscious products and practices, they’re also more inclined to take actions of their own.

Brands have the opportunity to get creative, both when it comes to how they increase the use of recycled plastic in their products and how they communicate regarding those efforts. To keep things fresh and top of mind for consumers, brands must continually push the envelope and identify new and better ways to both make products more responsibly and communicate their impact.

With so many examples of early success and so many products and brands not yet fully engaged in these efforts, there’s no better time to make a commitment to reducing plastic pollution and limiting the need for virgin plastic. Don’t sit on the sidelines!

To learn more about how your brand can join the movement and make an impact, visit