And while the onus is on each of us to reduce our single-use plastic habits, global manufacturing giant Adidas has been working on a new clean-up approach.
From company headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, Mattias Amm has led the charge to develop a footwear range with recycled marine plastic.
“We’ve been on a long journey in partnership with Parley for the Oceans,” he said.
Environmental organisation Parley works to address major threats to the oceans, and it’s inspired Adidas to develop new manufacturing methods to make use of coastline plastic waste.
“Together we’ve made a process to replace virgin plastic yarn with ocean plastic yarn,” Mr Amm said.
“We discovered that most of our consumers had no clue about how bad the marine plastics problem is globally.”
Rethinking the supply chain
From Parley’s waste collection stations, semi-compressed blocks of plastic bottles are shipped to a factory in Taiwan.
“Parley’s main collection point at the moment is in the Maldives and that’s where we’re sourcing the bottles from,” Mr Amm said.
“From there the bottles are shipped to Taiwan where they are shredded into small flakes.
“Those flakes are then cleaned and partially melted so they become small pellets, and then the pellets are extruded into a yarn.”
The yarn is then supplied to Adidas manufacturing bases around the world.
And while the process has undergone various stages of refinement, Mr Amm said it was a process that could be replicated by manufacturers all over the globe.
“The [marine waste] problem is so big and we can’t solve it alone, so if we can get more brands involved we can start fighting it,” he said.
“We started with just one [recycled plastic] shoe and now we want to make five million pairs.”
For each pair of the shoes, 11 recycled plastic bottles have been used — some more, some less, depending on the shoe size.
Enough waste for everyone
Mr Amm said the recycled plastic yarn had been used to make apparel as well as shoes.
“Once you get the yarn, it’s basically the same process from there as it would be when working with virgin plastic,” Mr Amm said.
“It’s not 100 per cent the same becasue it behaves slightly differently; the main difference is the stretch properties of the yarn.
“So we’ve re-engineered the knitting program to make sure there is the same experience with the product at the end.
“One of the range of Manchester United jerseys was made with Parley ocean plastics, similar to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich jerseys.
“They had one of their away jerseys made out of recycled plastics.”
Mr Amm said there was more than enough waste in the ocean to go around.
“We are just part of the fight to prevent marine plastic pollution.”