San Francisco-based green cleaning brand, Method, in collaboration with Los Angeles-based Envision Plastics, will be rolling out with a new line of biodegradable 2-in-1 dish and hand cleaner this November which will be retailed in bottles of soap made from plastic debris. The debris used in the bottles come from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; specifically from the beaches Kahuku’s James Campbell Wildlife Refuge in Oahu and picked up by by Method employees alongside volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the Kokua Hawai’i Foundation.
Don’t know what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is? Essentially it is a large mass of plastic bags, bottles and other debris in the waters off the coast of Hawaii. The United Nations estimates that 80 percent of the plastic comes from land, another 10 percent comes from fishing nets and marine supplies and the final ten percent comes from items dropped from recreational boaters, offshore oil rigs and large cargo ships. The main problem is that plastic is not biodegradable so it never truly leaves the ocean unless it is picked out. The plastic does photodegrade–break into smaller pieces from the sunlight–but that just means small pieces of plastic are floating in the ocean.
Ten percent of Method’s special edition “Sea Minerals”-scented soap bottle will be made of Pacific Ocean plastic–the remainder 90 percent will also be made from post-consumer recycled plastic, but not from the Pacific Ocean. Method co-founder Adam Lowry points out that even though only a small portion of the bottle is made from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the goal is to ”raise awareness that the real solution to plastic pollution lies in reusing and recycling the plastic that’s already on the planet.” Even then, the Wired shares that 3,000 pounds of marine litter was collected last month in order to create the new sea urchin-inspired soap bottle.
But if you think this venture alone can help clean up the patch, think again! Forbes contributor Amy Westervelt appropriately points out that reusing plastic is not the solution. Westervelt writes:
Unfortunately the story that keeps getting told and repeated is the one that perpetuates the “it’s okay to make more, we’ll just clean it up,” myth. Hundreds of thousands of dollars every year are being spent on ocean and beach cleanup efforts, money that is essentially wasted because for every ton cleaned up there are several more right behind it. Plastic is a terrific material–it’s durable, flexible, and has a seemingly endless number of uses. It also lasts forever, which is why it is not the ideal material for temporary uses like packaging, bags, straws and so forth.
Westervelt’s point is accurate: Instead of constantly looking to fix a problem, it’s better to prevent it altogether. Oregon State University researcher Angelicque White shares the same sentiment and shares that removing the plastic from the ocean would take 250 times the energy required to create it in the first place. That being said, the Great Pacific Patch already exists and if small steps can help decrease the already existing problem, then that’s a positive step in the right direction.