In recent years, images of vast flotillas of plastic bobbing on the ocean surface have become all too familiar. We regularly see pictures of idyllic tropical islands polluted with the detritus of our throwaway world. Beaches that once were littered with nothing but coconuts and driftwood are now marred with bottles, straws, food containers and countless other objects casually trashed somewhere in the world and carried many miles on ocean currents. This already happen in Portugal and we all can see it, all over the beaches.
Plastic is emerging as one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. The tragedy is that it is a material that once had such promise.
Mass production of plastic began in the 1950s. As the world got back to work after World War II, plastic was the perfect material to build a better future. The 1950s was an era of optimism, and plastic was its wonder-material. Cheap to produce and safe to use, it opened up a whole new world for designers. Plastic is light, strong, endlessly adaptable and can be used to make objects of any size, shape or color.
It is a miracle product –with a significant drawback: It does not biodegrade. A plastic object, once made, will not break down in the way that natural materials do. Scientists haven’t an exact estimate of the numbers of years it takes a plastic shopping bag to break down, for example, but some say 500 years. Others say much longer.
None of the most commonly used plastics are biodegradable. So, unless they are burned, they build up – in landfills and as litter on the land and in the seas. The amount of plastic is daunting. According to an article in Science Advances, a journal produced by the Association for the Advancement of Science:
“If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.”
The action of UV light on plastic can help break it down, particularly when it is in the ocean rather than a landfill where no light can reach it. However, this does not solve the problem. Instead, it means the plastic fractures into toxic particles. Fish eat the particles and then we eat the fish.
The goal of TRIBE34 – Ocean Project is to help remove plastic from the seas.
We’re partnering with fishermen in Portugal to salvage the plastic. They gather it at the same that they haul in the fish. They do it because they want to safeguard their livelihood and help protect the marine life.
We’re also starting to work with SEAQUAL™, a unique ingredient fiber brand. They take the collected plastic and upcycle it to make a polyester filament. Go for the models