Episode 155: Scaling the Use of Ocean-bound Plastics: A Story of Circularity

Give a listen to this NothingWasted! Podcast, where we bring you a popular Waste360’s Sustainability Talks session from WasteExpo.

Liz Bothwell, Head of Content & Marketing

June 27, 2022

Give a listen to this NothingWasted! Podcast, where we bring you a popular Waste360’s Sustainability Talks session from WasteExpo, “Scaling the Use of Ocean-bound Plastics: A Story of Circularity.” It was a tried-and-true case study in circularity and how key stakeholders from across the value chain came together to create quality products out of this material – while doing “good” along the way.

This session featured speakers from brands that use ocean-bound plastics: Chad Rabe, sr. principal designer, Soft Goods & Cases, Dell Technologies; Maxmillian Michieli, director, sustainability products, CPI Card Group, Inc.; and Rick Wilson, sales engineer, PolyVisions, Inc. The session was moderated by Ryan Schoenike, co-founder, Oceancycle.

Take a look at some of the highlights:

Schoenike: When people hear about ocean-bound plastics, a lot of them say, “Well that would be great, but how do I actually do it; how do I get started?” What challenges have you faced, and what has that journey looked like?

Michieli: We started our ocean-bound project—making a credit card out of ocean-bound plastic—in 2018. My background is in design and manufacturing operations, and we had been using virgin PVC plastic for 30 years at our factory. So I had zero experience with this; just started reaching out to people to find out where we could I get some of this [ocean-bound] material, what could I do? Technically speaking, I think one of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome was with our suppliers. Every single one of them are used to running with virgin materials, and their perception of recycled plastics was that, “this is garbage; if you put this in our extrusion lines, it’s going to shut them down.” So we really had to partner with them and learn about it together; that was the only way we were able to make it successful. 

Schoenike: Rick, what has your experience been in working with suppliers and partner brands?

Wilson: It’s very important that the supply chain is very well established—and, thanks goes to Oceancycle, which has worked to make that happen. We use PET and seem to have a never-ending stream of supply at this point. In our work with Herman Miller, they took their highest visibility chair and went right for that. Over time, we worked with their suppliers and worked out the differences on processing our materials versus what they were used to. Now we are working on circularity, where we can bring a used product back in, pull the plastic parts off, grind them back up and recycle them into new products.

Schoenike: What sort of attitudes are you finding in the market today, regarding innovation and sharing best practices? 

Wilson: Working with Herman Miller was a joy. We went on a journey together, and once we got 90% along that journey, when they were putting out product, they told their biggest competitor, “You’ve gotta get a hold of these guys.” It’s kind of fun like that, and the same goes for Dell. A lot of times a customer wants to come to you and say, “’You have to sign all these NDAs.’ So when Dell approached us with their latest project, I asked if they wanted an NDA, and they said, “No, please tell everybody what you’re working on, that you’re working with us, and what you’re doing,” I said, “Why?” Because “we’re doing good, and we want everyone to know how what we’re doing can effect them, and how they can climb on board.” That’s a bit of fresh air in our industry especially. It’s transparency and responsibility; we’ve got to be responsible for the future.

Listen to the episode above.


About the Author(s)

Liz Bothwell

Head of Content & Marketing, Waste360

Liz Bothwell is head of content and marketing for Waste360, proud host of the NothingWasted! Podcast, and ghostwrites for others to keep her skills sharp and creative juices flowing. She loves family, football, her French bulldogs, and telling stories that can help to make the world a more sustainable place.

Follow her on Linkedin or Twitter

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