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Thirsty for products that look good and do good? Choose Ocean Bottle

Plastic, the once miracle material, is now threatening our planet with a truckload being dumped into our oceans every minute. That’s 22 million kgs of plastic every single day—so how can we be a part of the solution?

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The problem with plastic

The qualities that have made plastic so ingrained in our lives—its durability and long-lasting design—also increase the threat posed to the environment and marine life. Every toothbrush that has been made since their invention in the 1930s still exists highlights the scale of this issue. Much of it ends up in our oceans, too – at least eight million tons of plastic every year – threatening marine life, coastal tourism and our health.

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Here’s how you can be part of the solution

Up to 80% of the world’s ocean plastic comes from a lack of waste management systems in coastal communities around the world. This is where Ocean Bottle comes in. For each dishwasher-safe, easy-clean reusable water bottle purchase, Ocean Bottle funds the collection of equivalent to 1,000 plastic bottles. Ocean Bottle also partners with Plastic Bank to support more than 4,300 plastic collectors in coastal communities where plastic pollution is at its worst, to collect, sort and recycle much of the world’s waste.

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How the Ocean Bottle system works

1. You buy an Ocean Bottle
2. Funds go to places where plastic pollution is worst, together with their partner Plastic Bank
3. Locals can take plastic waste to different collection points in cities and coastal communities
4. They can then exchange it for money or credit via blockchain technology to spend on tuition, products, health care and access to microfinance

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Circular by design

Operating in Haiti, Brazil, Philippines and Indonesia, Ocean Bottle’s approach is circular: Ocean bound plastic is collected and recycled into new products. They also have smart chip activated NFC technology, where you can fund more collection in the future when you refill and scan your bottle at retailers, gyms and on campus. What’s not to love?

We sat down with Ocean Bottle founders, Will and Nick, to talk about their journey and the ongoing fight against plastic pollution. 

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Before meeting Nick, I [Will] completed an undergraduate degree in engineering and spent a year out at sea in the Indian Ocean. I saw first-hand the devastating state of pollution in our ocean and instantly wanted to do something about it. Nick comes from a background working in venture capital, having worked on the investments team at Blenheim Chalcot, the UK’s largest venture builder, he is driven to redefine the impact business model.

Where did Ocean Bottle’s journey begin? 
Will: A big part of the inspiration of Ocean Bottle came from spending a year working at sea on the Indian Ocean, discovering an island of trash in the Maldives, Thilafushi. Here, plastic is predominantly burnt and left to drift out into our ocean everyday. It became apparent that we had an insurmountable task ahead of us in solving the plastic crisis and that individuals wanted to make a difference. Following this, we came across Plastic Bank who were setting up infrastructure in some of the worst-hit places, and realised that this was a great solution that we should connect people all over the world to - enter Ocean Bottle. The product that would connect people to creating an enormous impact on the problem.

Nick: We both met when we were put in seats next to each other while studying at London Business School, back in 2018. We ended up talking about what we wanted to do after our degree and we just made an instant connection between my desire to create a new impact business model that put mission first and Will’s interest in starting something to help solve the ocean plastic crisis. Enter Ocean Bottle!

What’s it like to be out in the field with Plastic Bank? 
It’s incredible the work that Plastic Bank does in Haiti, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and Egypt. As a team we visited the collection sites in Bali in February 2020 just before COVID to create a short film on Kuntari, a collector, and her story and the living that she makes collecting plastic on the front lines of the ocean plastic crisis. We saw first hand the impact that is being created, both in terms of expanding plastic collection and creating employment and social opportunity. New collection points are being set up every day in a range of different locations, from shops to junk yards to schools and enabling locals to bring in their recycling and exchange it for digital tokens. Plastic Bank makes a real difference in these coastal communities and they create real jobs out of something that was previously just waste, it is really incredible and their importance can not be overstated.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your journey so far? 
We are perhaps proudest of the impact we generated from the last year, giving almost 20.45% of our revenue to fund plastic collection, collecting 1,384,588 kgs of plastic so far. We are also most excited about our goal for 2025 which is to fund collection equivalent to 7 billion plastic bottles and stop this from entering the ocean.

Do you have any advice for young aspiring entrepreneurs? 
No journey will be more challenging or rewarding than starting your own business. We would recommend any entrepreneurs to be absolutely sure that the company they want to launch is the right one. Being excited about it to begin with and the potential impact you could create, makes the journey all the more worth it! We would also recommend finding the right people to do it with and to bring on amazing partners, as you can’t do it all yourself. Also if you’re going to start a company, make sure you start it for the planet - we have no time to waste and we need everyone to get involved!

Why should someone choose an Ocean Bottle compared to other reusable bottles? 
We are an impact company first, and a reusable bottle company second. Every Ocean Bottle enables individuals to have a direct impact on turning the tap off ocean plastic, whilst creating social mobility in coastal communities worldwide. Every Ocean Bottle funds the collection of 1000 plastic bottles in weight, equivalent to 11.4kgs of plastic. It is the only bottle that impacts both people and plastic.

How does your environmental work impact local communities and help promote social justice?  
We support coastal communities in Haiti, Bali, The Philippines and Brazil who’ve bared the brunt of the world’s excess. If we are to seriously contribute to helping the climate and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, then we must address poverty, and other forms of social imbalance and injustice, at a local level. We do this with the help of our global community of customers and collaborators. Every Ocean Bottle sold sends funds to collectors who are paid above the market rate. Collectors may also exchange plastic for other things they and their families need, from education, to healthcare, or even micro-finance. We also endeavour to give communities and voices that are fighting social injustice every day a platform to be heard.

Who are some people that are doing great things for our oceans right now? 
We host a series called ‘Ocean Heroes’ where we spotlight some of the most incredible individuals doing their bit to help save our oceans. We had Danni Washington featured who is an incredible marine biologist, the Billion Oyster Project who are restoring one billion oysters to New York Harbor, and Joost Wouters, a seaweed research pioneer, blue carbon activist and CEO of the Seaweed Company.

We watched Seaspiracy and were really shocked by what’s been happening in the ocean—have you watched it and if so, what were your biggest takeaways? 
We have! We were really excited to see that the release of Seaspiracy has brought some much needed attention around the welfare of our ocean. We should all be demanding both transparency and better practices, as well as educate ourselves about food production.

One of our biggest takeaways is that we appreciate any work that is geared towards highlighting the increasing world affects on our oceans from discarded fishing nets, to plastic pollution, sea level rising etc. The documentary did have a few discrepancies in our opinion, one of them being that 48% of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a floating mass of plastic waste) is discarded fishing nets. This could be misinterpreted to suggest that discarded fishing gear is the main source of ocean plastic. Whilst it is a major source, the reality is that the dominant source of ocean plastic comes from land based sources (estimates suggesting that this amount is 80%, with the remaining 20% from marine sources).

Overall it got us and the world to talk about our oceans which is great and let's keep that going.

What can people do everyday to help our oceans? 
We have a massive overproduction of single use plastics and over 22 millions kgs of plastic pours in the oceans each day. Combined with a lack of waste management infrastructure in impoverished coastal communities the combination is a disaster and means we have a lot of plastic going into the ocean. We need to stop production of most single use plastics and also do what we can at an individual level to stop using single use. It might not come as a surprise to you that one of our top tips is to carry a reusable bottle! It seems simple, but if you imagine 7 billion people doing it, the impact could be massive. It’s not just about getting rid of the single use plastic either, it’s about everything you buy. We need to move away from this linear throw away culture of take, make, waste and the more people can start to think about that and influence change, the better.

What advice would you give your younger self? 
• Accept failure and be patient. It will take time to get to where you want to be. Things will go wrong - all the time - so being able to accept that will mean that you can keep your hairline.
• People are willing to help, so get out there and ask for support.
• Not all advice is good advice, just because they have done it before does not mean they know better - stick to your guns on what means the most to you.
• Prioritise. You cannot do everything at once - pareto.
• Take time to enjoy the ride and celebrate the small wins!