The Ocean Cleanup aims to develop a sustainable product made of the highest possible concentration of ocean plastic, with the objective of 100% of the plastic material being collected from the GPGP.
"We are on a journey to repurpose this plastic. This will be the first batch that we recycle into a consumer product. We will start with sorting and cleaning the plastic, which will give us insight into the amount and quality of the plastic."
We expect to be able to unveil the product in fall 2020.
How much plastic did you collect?
Today we are bringing sixty 1 m³ big bags onshore with the plastic we collected from the GPGP. Plastic that should be perceived as opportunistic by-catch of a system test that was not primarily aimed at optimization of plastic collection.
Why ask for an upfront donation? Is it a down payment and, if so, what is the remaining cost to purchase the product?
This is the start of the ‘Plastic Journey’ to repurpose the plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to create unique products. In September 2020, we expect to have turned the recycled material into a product. At this time, we can unveil what this item is and provide full clarity on the quantity of the limited stock - this will also be the moment that supporters can purchase the actual product. The initial $50 donation will aid the Plastic Journey, where we transform trash into treasure using plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and will give supporters one of the first spots in line to access our premier products made of plastic from the ocean. Our aim is to show that this material has value, especially due to its unique characteristics and the story behind it. Since most people will never go to the GPGP, we can bring it to them; once the patch is cleaned, it will be a thing of the past, therefore, giving owners of the product a piece of history. This is something we have never done before, so we expect it to be challenging and our scope of work will be quite extended. All profits made from the sales of the product will be applied to fund our mission and help us remove even more plastic from the ocean. An added benefit of the donation is that supporters will have a front row seat to the entire journey with original content documenting the entire process, giving full transparency to the road in which we are embarking. Should donors choose not to buy the product, or perhaps they are unhappy with the final outcome, after having made a donation, they will be able to get a refund for this particular donation that is linked to reserving a spot for the early movers.
Is The Ocean Cleanup becoming a commercial organization with this product addition?
An important objective of repurposing the plastic into products, is to show the world that there’s value in the material that is now considered ‘trash’. As we had planned from the beginning of our program, we want to capture this value, to fund our mission to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. All margin we generate from the sales will go directly back into the organization. We are nonprofit – this will not change nor do we want it to change. We are also a project; therefore, we aim to make ourselves redundant - when the oceans are clean, we will no longer need to exist.
Why is it important to certify the plastic?
Transparency is a form of currency for The Ocean Cleanup. We believe that the more open we are about our work, the more trust our supporters have in us and our work. Since there is no internationally recognized standard to verify plastic sources or certify the subsequent products (yet there is a growing offer of products that state to be made with ‘ocean plastic’), we believe it is important to add this traceability to our product, hopefully leading the way for other organizations producing items from ocean-sourced materials. As a verification by a third-party specialist in our opinion is the only correct way to do this, we asked DNV GL to use their resources and expertise to create this standard.
Who is DNV GL?
DNV GL is the leading provider of risk management and quality assurance services to the maritime, oil and gas, and power and renewables industries. They are also global leaders in certifying management systems of companies across all types of industries, including healthcare, food and beverage, automotive and aerospace. How does this DNV GL standard work? The DNV GL standard is an Identity Preserved Model, which provides the highest level of traceability and transparency to any product. An IP model ensures that certified material from a certified site is kept separate from other sources. If used through the whole supply chain, it allows certified products to be uniquely traced through the production process from the source of the raw material in the ocean to the last point of transformation into a product. Will I get a certificate with my purchase? At this time and on this material, for technical reasons we will not be producing certificates, but the final product will have a stamp of verification from DNV GL.
Will the standard be available for other products?
The standard was not made for and does not belong to The Ocean Cleanup. The standard was developed by DNV GL utilizing the knowledge and experience that we, The Ocean Cleanup, have gained in our mission to rid the oceans of plastic. The standard can be followed by any company, regardless of their size, and for any product they wish to use it for.
Is recycling into new products (that could end up in the environment again) the best solution? Would it not be better to turn it into a fuel, or bricks, or roads, or burn it?
We want to give the plastic collected from the ocean a new life by recycling the waste and developing our own branded durable products with preselected partners. Our aim is to show that this material has value, especially due to its unique characteristics and the story behind it. Since most people will never go to the GPGP, we can bring it to them; once the patch is cleaned, it will be a thing of the past, therefore, giving owners of the product a piece of history. All proceeds from the sales of this product will fund continued cleanup operations and, based on our projections, we expect to be able to remove more plastic (in weight) out of the oceans with the funds received for the product, than what is actually processed into the product itself. From a feasibility standpoint, our objective is to valorize as much of the harvest as technically and commercially possible. The first step is to analyze the catch to understand the type and quality of the plastic. Based on our findings, we will seek the optimal application and way to process the material. Our goal is to have a ‘zero waste’ operation. Throughout this journey, we have and will only select the best technologies that help us achieve our goal of producing durable consumer products, with the least amount of negative environmental impact as possible. Our team has investigated several different types of recycling technologies to process the plastic from the ocean, including thermal recycling. We will partner with commercially operating companies with a proven track record and technologies on an industrial scale. Moreover, whatever product we create, we want to turn it into something that does not go back into the ocean, therefore all products will be designed to be recyclable.
Boyan states that the trash you collected was tainted with different contaminants. How can you be sure that there is no health risk attached to this product?
We have not yet differentiated the various types nor quality of the plastic that we collected from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch during Mission One. Some of the pieces might have been in the ocean for decades and may contain a variation of contaminants. With this knowledge in mind, a key step in the Plastic Journey is to do conduct all required regulatory testing, linked to the application of the material. If these tests and standards are met, the material is indeed safe for us to use.
What will be the next steps with the collected material? Why do you ship this material over such long distances?
The next step in the process will be sorting and processing the plastic. We will conduct this step in the Netherlands because, due to regulations, this was the optimal location for this step in the process. Following this, we will recycle the plastic, most likely with a European partner who can accommodate the uniqueness of the material. Despite many efforts, we were not able to find suitable recycling capacity for our material in North America, which logistically (and environmentally) would have been an easier choice. We are currently looking to offset our activities where we can and to have the most beneficial impact on the environment possible.
Will System 002 be a larger version of System 001/B? Will it be the dimensions of Wilson, or (even) bigger?
Yes, System 002 will be larger than System 001/B, the exact dimensions are yet to be confirmed as the ocean team is currently in the project definition phase for this new system. As they collate the learnings from both systems, they will assess these against the key performance indicators (KPIs) of our cleanup strategy to develop the design for System 002. We will share progress with our followers as we reach these milestones and have a better-defined scope for this fully operational system.
Why is this taking so long? When will you be able to extract plastic on a large scale?
The aim of these systems was to confirm the feasibility of our cleanup technology and to serve as a testbed to optimize our design thinking. As this is something that has never been done before, we have much to learn about our cleanup technology in its intended destination. As we conduct our tests, we must consider many factors as we do this, such as safety, weather, and environmental impact, and implement these learnings into our next system design. We have had challenges along the way, but these unscheduled learning opportunities have brought us further along in the development of our design. All learnings are applied with the aim of having the most efficient and effective cleanup operations.