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Monday Mailbag: What are you doing about ocean plastic?

The Monday Mailbag series matches up your most pressing questions with wisdom from Thread’s team. Today, we dive into a headline-grabbing topic that comes up with folks all the time.

If you’re wondering how we do anything, from measuring impact to mastering internships? Drop us a line and get an answer!


QUESTION:

You seem to talk about plastic and recycling from all angles, so I wanted to ask: Are you doing anything about ocean plastic?

 


ANSWER:

Ocean plastic has become real hip these past couple years as more and more terrifying reports come out regarding the Pacific gyre, the fact that in 9 years there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, and how species all around the world are literally choking to death on the stuff.

Ocean plastic is a big deal, but there’s an important point to remember: Ocean plastic starts on the land.

While Thread isn’t paying fishermen to fill their nets with plastic instead of fish (yet), we are indeed having a great impact on ocean plastic.

The Ocean Conservancy found that plastic that is distributed to populations within 30 miles of the coast is most likely to be washed out to sea. That’s an estimated 8 Million tons of plastic entering the ocean every year. Plastic that is uncollected is more than twice as likely to end up in the ocean.

Thread currently works in Haiti and Honduras – two countries that when compared with the above descriptions, are high risk for contributing to ocean plastic. Both countries have dense populations along their coastlines with little centralized waste collection, meaning the plastic produced and distributed in these countries has a decent chance of ending up in the ocean.

Because plastic has value in these countries, entrepreneurs are building businesses around the collection of this material and companies like Thread buy it as an export for use in products. This results in less plastic left sitting in the streets or canals, therefore dramatically decreasing the volume of plastic washed out to sea.

The circular economy – utilizing the raw materials in ‘waste’ as inputs in production rather than throwing them away – has enormous opportunity for low income economies and decreasing harmful emissions into our atmosphere. I also believe that this model is essential for preserving our oceans.

Ensuring that we stop the flow of plastic into the ocean is just as crucial to long-term ocean health and conservation as innovating ways to collect the millions of tons of plastic that have already made its way out to sea. We need to stop the bleeding before we can move on to more advanced surgery, and Thread’s operations do just that.

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