circular economy conservation design waste

Ecover’s recovered sea plastic packaging

I’ve written in the past about the continent-sized mass of floating plastic debris that circles in the Pacific ocean. There’s one in the Atlantic too, and three others. Each of them marks a confluence of sea currents, so floating waste accumulates there. Biodegradeable waste such as scrap wood will eventually rot away, but plastics just sit there. Eventually they go brittle in the sunlight and crumble into smaller pieces, but they don’t break down entirely. At least, not in any time frame that we know of yet.

While they sit there, they can pose a serious risk to birds, turtles and other sea creatures. Scientists dissecting a dead sperm whale off the coast of Spain recently found flowerpots, hosepipe and plastic sheeting in its stomach.

This week has seen an interesting development however. Ecover, the sustainable cleaning products company, intends to start using recovered sea plastics in its packaging.

Working with the Waste Free Oceans campaign, British fishermen will be encouraged to keep and pass on any plastics that are caught in their nets, rather than throwing it back overboard. They will also report in any areas they pass through that are particularly polluted. They can then make a trawling pass through those areas to pick up the plastic. Boats signed up to the Waste Free Oceans initiative typically spend 12 days a year just fishing for plastic rather than fish.

Back on land, the plastic is sent off for recycling, along with plastics from households, at a plant in Dagenham. This recycled plastic is then mixed with a sugarcane based bioplastic to create an entirely re-usable new form of plastic that will be used to make Ecover’s bottles.

Regular readers of the blog may already have spotted that this is another example of Circular Economy thinking, Ecover closing the loop on its packaging. Here’s Ecover’s pretty infographic about plastic recycling and what goes into their bottles:



  1. This is what I consider true social responsibility. I suppose it is not economical for the plastic manufacturers to offer a financial incentive to recycle the bottles. I am not sure how else to motivate the process. I do not know if there are similar projects underway in America.

  2. Is this an environmentally effective strategy? For example, do the benefits of the recycled plastic outweigh the harm of the extra fuel used while trawling for it? Could the money or other resources deployed in this activity be deployed to more beneficial effect elsewhere? Do we have ‘bigger fish to fry’ in other areas first, or does this scheme actually fit into the overall picture in a complementary way?

    1. The majority of the plastic will come in from trawlers that are out trawling anyway. On the days when they they trawl specifically for plastic, they would otherwise be out trawling for fish, so it’s no extra fuel use than there would otherwise be.

      Are their bigger environmental issues? Sure, but this is Ecover taking responsibility for their supply chain, something all companies should be doing.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Good to know about the work you are doing. Its definitely better and practical way to contribute for environment rather then merely using some marketing gimmicks “eco friendly packaging, degradable packaging” and so on.

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