Household and personal care company Method has launched bottles made in part from plastic collected from the North Pacific Gyre. The bottles are 100% post-consumer polyethylene, with 25% of the PCR content sourced from the ocean. Method has partnered with recycler Envision Plastics on the project, calling the resulting plastic Ocean PCR. "For every [bottle] you buy, you take 15 grams of plastic out of the ocean," is how Method cofounder Adam Lowry describes the product's impact.
|Electrolux's "Vac from the sea" initiative culled plastic waste from several oceans, including the pacific. Pictured here scrap retrieved from Kahuku beach in Hawaii.|
A number of local, state and federal dignitaries were on hand for the bottle launch, including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson; U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills; U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld; and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
"By transforming the trash in our oceans into usable products that are safe for our children, our environment and our future, Method has proven that green business can grow our economy and create jobs," the EPA's Jackson said.
Lowry, Method cofounder, noted two challenges the company's concept faced at launch:
- How do you make a high quality bottle out of degraded, brittle plastic that has been floating in the ocean for a decade or more?
- How do you establish a supply chain for a material that's floating in the ocean 2000 miles off the West Coast?
Lowry said that to process the ocean scrap, Envision developed an "entirely new process" that allows the company to clean, blend, and remanufacture low-quality material into high-quality plastic. To source the ocean scrap, Method worked with several beach-cleanup organizations, focusing on ones in Hawaii, which is situated at the southern edge of the gyre and is susceptible to scrap washing ashore. Method takes delivery of retrieved scrap that would normally be landfilled.
"The point, of course, is not to clean up the Gyre," Lowry said. "The scientists who study this problem will tell you there is no practical way to clean it up; the area is just too remote, and the plastic too small. The goal is to raise awareness about the issue of plastic pollution, and to point us toward the solution already in front of us: using the plastic that we already have."
Method made its first bottle entirely from post-consumer recycled plastic in 2006. Since then, it has continued to develop PCR technology and now makes tens of millions of plastic bottles annually without virgin plastic. Envision Plastics focuses on post consumer recycled polyolefins. It was formed in 2001 after obtaining proprietary rights and patented technologies from Union Carbide for the recycling of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). It now operates recycling operations on both coasts, with a plant in Chino, CA and Reidsville, NC.