Our plastic problem – innovations and enterprise rethinking plastic

sea-plastic-recycling-social-enterprise-innovationThe photo above was taken in the South of Spain on a little hidden beach well away from the fried breakfasts and karaoke bars of the Costa del Sol. Sadly, it’s not an uncommon sight. And not just in Spain but for coastlines across the world. According to a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. And if things don’t change, the same report predicts that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.

Last month at The Economist World Ocean Summit, the UN Environment declared “war on ocean plastic” with the launch of its #CleanSeas campaign. The campaign is a global movement that targets government, industry and consumers to reduce production and excessive use of plastic. Ten countries have already joined the campaign: Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Grenada, Indonesia, Norway, Panama, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone and Uruguay.

We all have a part to play in reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in landfill, our oceans and even our dinner plates (read more here).

“If the oceans die. We die” – Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

But what can we do?


Instead of bottled water, use a reusable bottle. We’re big fans of GiveMeTap and jerry bottle – if you buy a bottle from them, you’ll not only be reducing your plastic bottle usage but you’ll be supporting clean water projects.




Every GiveMeTap bottle you buy gives 5 years of clean water to a person in Africa.

jerry bottle


100% of jerry bottle profits fund water projects around the world.

Bring your own coffee cup…

FrankGreen SmartCup™

Winner of the 2015 Good Design Awards, SmartCup™ is not only a stylish reusable coffee cup but it also allows you to make cashless payments with the tap of the cup. Why not buy one of their reusable bottles while you’re at it?

You might also want to check out The Independent’s “8 best reusable coffee cups”.

And for your groceries…

Original Unverpackt

Original Unverpackt (“unpackaged” in English) is a zero waste grocery store, possibly the first in the world. By allowing customers to buy exactly how much they need, they help to reduce waste at home. There are no plastic or paper bags and customers are encouraged to bring containers from home to fill with the produce they want to buy.

If you’re not in Berlin, it may not be long until you have a similar shop in your neighbourhood. In the meantime, carry reusable bags and avoid foods in plastic packaging, recycling when it can’t be avoided.

Reuse and recycle…

Even some of the larger brands are getting on board, as well as some amazing innovations from smaller organisations. Here are a few examples…


Adidas Parley


Adidas has partnered with Parley to make sportswear out of plastic from the sea “spinning the problem into a solution. The threat into a thread.” In 2016, Adidas made the world’s first shoe using Parley Ocean Plastic™.  FC Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have both worn football shirts made from sea plastic. And most recently, Adidas launched a range of Parley Ocean Plastic™ swimwear.

Shampoo and cleaning products…

P&G’s Head & Shoulders
P& G announced the launch of the “world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made with beach plastic”. P&G is working with recycling experts TerraCycle and SUEZ to produce a limited edition shampoo bottle that will be made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic. By the end of 2018, P&G plans to produce more than half a billion bottles per year made from up to 25% post-consumer recycled plastic.


Ecover recently launched a limited-edition ocean plastic washing-up liquid bottle, which is made from 10% of plastic recovered or destined for the sea. The rest is from other recycled sources. Although limited edition, Ecover’s other bottles are 75% Plantplastic® (made from sugarcane instead of petroleum) and 25% postconsumer recycled plastic.

Shoes and coats (and sleeping bags)…



Rothy’s has developed a stylish range of 3D knit recycled plastic shoes that are also machine washable.

Empowerment Plan

Photo credit: The Empowerment Plan

Empowerment Plan is a Detroit based non-profit organisation that provides training and employment opportunities for single parents from local shelters as seamstresses to make coats for homeless people. The EMPWR Coat is made from durable materials, including upcycled automotive insulation from General Motors, and can be transformed from coat into a sleeping bag or bag. Watch the video here.

From coats to air filters and car parts…

General Motors
As well as its insulation being used in Empowerment Plan coats, General Motors is also recycling employees’ water bottles into car parts and air filters as part of their “zero waste” drive.

And even skateboards…


Bureo makes skateboards from recycled plastic fishing nets to keep them out of the ocean. Based in California its recycling program “Net Positiva” in Chile provides fishing net collection points. Once collected, nets are washed and prepared for the recycling process. The nets are shredded, melted and cut in small recycled pellets that are then moulded into Bureo’s products.

Do you know of any other ideas, innovations or enterprises that should be included above? Give me a shout here or @HMHtweets

Or maybe you’re a social enterprise or non-profit in need of some expert support? Find out more on how I can help here.