The Truth About Recycled Ocean Bound Plastic
Recycled plastic has been celebrated as an environmentally friendly solution to the insurmountable problem of plastic waste. The newest form of this is Ocean Bound plastic, where companies take plastic waste near the ocean and turn it into packaging.
Despite its "green" reputation, the use of ocean bound recycled plastic in packaging is much more problematic than it first appears. Let's take a deeper look into why it isn't what it seems.
The actual definition of "Ocean Bound Plastic"
According to Science.org, ocean bound plastic is any plastic within 50 kilometres of the ocean or waterways. There is no way to regulate where ocean bound plastic has originated. Much of the plastic labelled as "ocean bound" is, in fact, not going to the ocean.
It's exaggerating our plastics problem
While the idea of picking up a piece of plastic and turning it into packaging may seem helpful, it is not helping to turn off the original plastics tap. In fact, by trying to recycle this plastic, it gives organisations permission to continue to use plastic without the guilt or repercussions.
It is misusing single use plastic
Turning plastic waste into a durable and long-term item such as a bench, road or even water bottle is a fantastic solution to our waste problem. A lot of waste can be collected for this purpose, and it truly makes an impact.
But turning plastic waste into a single use plastic mailer is a huge environmental problem. Not only is it recycled which washes tonnes of micro plastics back into the ocean, but it is converted to another packaging mailer bag that will be thrown back into landfill.
The end of life is landfill
With the lack of soft plastics recycling infrastructure in Australia and globally, there is no easily accessible recycling for consumers. Therefore, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, all of these recycled plastic bags go straight back to landfill and become ocean-bound yet again.
It is energy and resource intensive
The process of recycling plastic requires substantial energy and often involves the use of chemicals to break down the materials. This can offset some of the environmental benefits of recycling. Furthermore, the transportation of recyclable materials to recycling centres adds to the carbon footprint of the process.
If you are considering your packaging options, consider recycled paper packaging or plant-based packaging instead. There are no perfect solutions, but ocean bound plastic is definitely not the answer.