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Research Centre

Recycling ocean plastic? Catch it before it reaches the ocean.

By April 1, 2020August 27th, 2020No Comments

There is a difference between a plastic clean-up operation and a recycling effort, and it all boils down to when and where the material is collected.   

From community beach clean-ups to entrepreneurial business solutions, finding ways to address ocean plastic pollution has become increasingly important. However, finding viable ways to effectively use plastic material that has ended up in the ocean can be challenging – especially if the aim is to turn it into a valuable resource through the process of recycling. 

One of the key difficulties of working with ocean plastic is that once it hits the water, it’s too late.  

According to the director of Foplam, Alvaro Aguilar:  

 “Plastic exposed to the sun and ocean water suffer UV degradation that makes the plastic yellow, hard and brittle making it largely unusable for recycling. The key is to stop bottles before they enter the ocean to give them new life as high-quality recycled products.” 

Preservation of quality by collecting the material before it reaches the sea is what differentiates a recycling effort from a clean-up operation. Although both play a vital role in reducing ocean plastic pollution, it’s important that plastic material isn’t removed from oceans and coastlines to simply end up in landfill. Finding new ways to reuse the material as much as possible is what’s needed and creating value out of plastic through recycling is a first step in achieving this.  

However, plastic that is beyond recycling can be used in creative ways to inform and engage with the public too, as shown by the project Washed Ashore which turns ocean debris into giant animal sculptures.