Turning the Tide on Ocean Plastics by Using Waste as a Resource

August 3, 2022
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The downside of ocean plastic waste is its ever-expanding volume. But there is good news, too, and it’s often ignored. As new recycling technologies come online to address the mounting problem of plastic waste in our world, start-up firms around the globe are focusing on repurposing ocean plastics.

Plastic is but one element of ocean waste, but it gets almost all of the attention because of its visibility, as much of it floats at or near the surface. While impossible to accurately quantify, marine scientists in 2015 estimated that 150 million metric tons of plastic circulated in our oceans, with eight million tons being added annually. With the volume of manufactured plastics doubling every 15 years, some experts put these numbers considerably higher. The total volume of marine plastics is also expected to triple by 2040. Suffice to say, up-and-coming recyclers will have an unlimited supply of material for the foreseeable future.

University of Georgia environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck says, “Gaining control of plastic waste is now such a large task that it calls for a comprehensive, global approach that involves rethinking plastic chemistry, product design, recycling strategies, and consumer use.”

Discarded plastic has been in our oceans almost since we started making the stuff, but its growth has been exponential since 1950. Until recently, though, a viable market for collecting and repurposing the litter has been absent. This is crucial to make the harvesting, buying, and selling of it profitable and thereby a goal worth pursuing toward its reduction. Since the ocean plastic recycling industry is still in its infancy, market forces such as pricing, quality control, and logistics are in a state of evolution.

Read more: Turning the Tide on Ocean Plastics by Using Waste as a Resource

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