Perhaps you’ve seen images of turtles and fish caught in six-pack rings, or the contents of a dead seabird’s stomach, filled to the gills with plastic trash, whichever it is, the sight of our impact on the ocean is shocking. It is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, as each year more than nine million tons of plastic enter the sea.
Due to the ocean’s currents, plastic tends to collect in five major gyres or vortexes; the largest and most famous of which is the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, located in the northern Pacific Ocean and rumoured to be the size of Texas. Here, more disturbing than the conspicuous mass of floating rubbish is the much larger ‘plastic soup’ beneath. This consists of suspended plastic particulates, which have photodegraded and disintegrated into smaller pieces. These pieces begin to resemble zooplankton and other food forms, which are then mistakenly eaten by sea life. In this way, plastic enters the ocean food chain and accumulates at every stage, eventually being ingested by us.
Clearly, we have a problem on our hands, but what if we fundamentally changed the way we viewed it, what if we turned the issue on its head? Instead of seeing plastic in terms of waste, let’s look at it in terms of opportunity; waste plastic is a valuable working material, a gigantic unmined resource that exists. This is how the optimists view it; with a bit of creativity we can transform ‘mess’ into a new product.
The multitalented Pharrell Williams agrees; he is the creative director of Bionic Yarn, a New York based textile company that transforms recycled plastic bottles and recovered ocean plastic into thread like fibres. These fibres are then combined with others, enabling the ‘plastic’ yarn to be developed into a variety of textiles like denim, khaki or canvas.
Bionic Yarn has teamed up with various fashion brands; with G-Star RAW it is onto its third line of ‘G-star RAW for the Oceans’ products, which are supported and aided by the environmental group Parley For the Oceans. This fall’s collection is thought to have removed an estimated 10 tons of recycled ocean plastic from the seabed.
Another company supported by Parley for the Oceans is Adidas, which is in the midst of designing a more eco friendly shoe. Although still in its prototype phase, the shoe will consist of materials derived from illegal or abandoned deep-sea fishing nets; all salvaged by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. So, thankfully, many of the big names in fashion are taking sustainability more seriously!