Ocean plastic pollution is a large global issue and is becoming worse each and every year. According to the IUCN, about 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year. This is an alarming number and the idea of harvesting and recycling this plastic into usable products sounds like a viable solution. Unfortunately, companies touting their recycled ocean plastic products often are only using a very small percentage of recycled ocean plastic mixed within virgin plastic polymers.
At the moment, there is no certifying body with the power to verify the claims of these companies or the composition of the ocean plastic fibers within these products. Even the founder of Oceanworks, a company that focuses on the distribution of recycled ocean plastic modules and fibers, states that “The issue is that ‘real’ ocean plastic is almost impossible to manufacture with and to collect at a scale that could actually support the demand of the commercial community,”
One reason for this is that plastic cannot be infinitely recycled. Plastic does degrade with each life cycle (the rate at which it does is still far too slow) and the material becomes unusable at a certain point. With that said, ocean plastic becomes even more difficult to use because of the sheer degradation that occurs after spending so much time in the ocean.
The process of retrieving this plastic is also difficult and becomes hard to scale in mass amounts. It’s for this reason we see more “ocean plastic” actually be retrieved more so on coasts and beaches. This still helps in the overall problem of course. However, there is still a notable disconnect from the idea these companies purvey that they are going into the middle of the ocean and retrieving these large amounts of ocean plastic.