When we hear 'the Great Garbage Patch,' we all imagine an island of trash floating around somewhere in the Pacific. But what most of us don’t know is that this Great Garbage Patch only accounts for about one third of all the plastic pollution floating around in the ocean. This waste not only harms the marine ecosystem, it harms us. The chemicals in plastic dissolve into the water, pollute marine life, and eventually enter the human food chain.
Though large scale efforts to clean up the ocean have failed in the past, new innovations look more promising than ever. The Ocean Cleanup, pioneered by Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat, aims to extract, prevent, and intercept waste in the ocean by trapping the garbage and allowing ships to pick it up by conveyor belt. (Did we mention Slat is 20 years old!?!) If this method is executed successfully, it will cost a fraction of current methods and is projected to remove 42% of trash in ten years.
Of course less trash is exciting, but what's the bigger picture? Well, in addition to reducing the pollution in the ocean, technologies that allow us to recycle the plastic that is collected into fabric and other materials are becoming more common. Recycling trash does not justify creating large amounts of it in the first place, but it does give us hope for a more closed-loop supply chain and more responsible disposal practices in the future.
Many companies have already begun to incorporate recycled polyester fabrics, which can use plastic (rPET) as the raw material, into their collections. Patagonia pioneered this process in the early 1990s with their fleece products, and has since found ways to utilize it in shell jackets, board shorts, and more. And brands like EcoAlf, Knowledge Cotton Apparel, Faherty Brand, and Matt & Nat are continuing to find new ways to use this material and reduce waste in the process. Check out some of our favorite products made from recycled water bottles and learn more about to bottle to fabric process below.