From ghost gear to green plastics

Our oceans are littered with plastics and our seabeds are awash with what is termed ‘ghost gear’ – lost, abandoned or deliberately discarded fishing gear. Greenpeace just recently released a report which revealed that right now, about 640 000 tonnes, approximately 10% of all ocean waste is ghost gear. This waste ends up in our oceans for a host of reasons, whether it be lost due to bad weather conditions, human error or the expense it takes to retrieve lost gear.

Ghost gear is a serious threat to marine life- sea animals and fish either imbibe, or swallow the stuff or get trapped and tangled in vast kilometres of discarded trawler nets and other related gear which is carried by ocean currents or caught on reefs, wrecks and the sea bed. Sea animals trapped in submerged ghost gear in turn attract other species of marine life, which too, become trapped and this creates a cascade of negative consequences. Ghost gear is a threat to both the largest mammals and smallest life forms which live in our oceans.

Humanity knows that ocean waste is a serious problem, and ghost gear forms part of the larger issue here. It is believed that by 2050, only 30 years from now, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish- if we had to put a number on it, that would be 937 million tons of plastic. Us humans have, throughout the course of history, waited until the 11th hour to solve the globe’s most serious issues; a sure demonstration that supports the idea that necessity, really is the mother of invention. We are now at the 11th hour, and there are groups of humans all over the globe trying to find ways to put ocean waste to good and practical use.

One of the forerunners in the fight against the scourge is Adidas. Adidas manufactures 400 million pairs of shoes every year; and mass production is a practice damaging our environment. With the clout of a multi-national and vast amounts of cash and resources at its disposal, Adidas has turned a clever trick to bring us the decades most intriguing sneaker- the Parley. This partnership has enabled Adidas to remove 2810 tonnes of plastic from the oceans already. The process starts with the rubbish being collected in coastal areas, sorted and sent to their plastic processing plant to be sorted, crush and compressed into tiny pellets. The second phase sees the plastic pellets spun into polyester yarn with petroleum as an ingredient here. Currently up to 75% of the Adidas Parley collection is made up of this marine waste. By 2021, Adidas hope to have produced the world’s first 100% recyclable shoe, which can be broken down and re-used to make a new pair thus creating a never-ending life cycle for the materials in the shoe.

Locally, the green plastics market is growing. GiLo Lifestyle, a Cape Town fashion brand, is taking plastic bottles from South Africa and beyond and turning it into men’s shorts. This is a huge step in the fight against single-use plastics (think: water bottles) as each pair of shorts is made up of 20 plastic bottles. The shorts themselves are nothing to be sniffed at either; they’re super comfy, dry quickly, are water repellent and have a nifty seamless inner thigh- a surfer’s dream.

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