Plastic waste in the oceans has gotten major attention from environmentalists and the general public as well as the plastics industry, and many are trying to come up with ways to eliminate this most visible problem. The latest use for co-mingled ocean plastic comes from the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME): Making business cards from OceanBound plastic. SNAME is an internationally recognized non-profit, professional society serving the maritime and offshore industries and their suppliers.
OceanBound plastic is a sustainable product, made from plastic at risk of entering the oceans collected from five countries that are responsible for dumping nearly 60% of the plastic waste found in the oceans: China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, according to the release from SNAME. Every pound of OceanBound Plastic used is a pound of plastic that would have been permanently lost. Products and packaging made with OceanBound Plastic become part of the formal waste stream and can be recycled over and over, just like any other plastic.
Participating in the project are Envision Plastics (Reidsville, NC), which collects and recycles the waste; Klöckner Pentaplast (Gordonsville, VA), which processes the material into sheets; and Plastic Printers (Hastings, MN), which will produce business cards from the sheets.
Gene Sanders, Executive Director of SNAME, explained how the idea came to him. “At my former position in the plastics industry, we had our business cards created from recycled Mountain Dew bottles. Everywhere we went, our cards generated a very positive reaction from our customers, members of the media, and [people] we met on Capitol Hill.
“Without the oceans, seas, and waterways, we have no maritime industry, so our commitment to the ocean ecosystem should be greater than anyone else’s. I am proud that we are leaders in this area, and we need more companies and organizations to follow our lead,” added Sanders.
The success of this scheme, as with all of the innovations that have been announced in recent months, hinges on demand for recycled materials. That is confirmed by a comment in SNAME’s release by Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh. “A key to ensuring financial stability around the effort will be getting big consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to commit to buying OceanBound resin. Otherwise, Envision may have to reduce its purchases of the material.
“In order to make collecting what we define as OceanBound plastic waste sustainable, Envision and the places where we collect the scrap need customers willing to make longer commitments than many of the one-off purchases we have seen,” she added.
From June 2017 to May 2018, Envision recycled 5.2 million pounds of plastic recovered from coastal areas in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Ettefagh noted that “the company is set to collect the same amount in the second year of the initiative, putting it on track to meet its [current] goal of 10 million pounds.”
An article posted on January 9, 2019, on Plastics Recycling Update’s website by Jared Paben, noted that “the OceanBound project may not be economically sustainable at current levels, because end users have purchased only a fraction of it at prices that cover Envision’s costs.
“Though ocean material is being recovered and some buying relationships for the resulting resin have been established,” said Paben, the “OceanBound effort is still hitting serious economic roadblocks.”