We know there’s a lot of plastic in the ocean, and we know how it gets there. Organizations like the Ocean Cleanup are developing ways to fish that plastic out of the ocean, and designers like Yves Behar are designing things to turn the discarded plastic into. Other organizations like Ocean Conservancy are funding ways to catch the plastic further upstream, in the rivers that feed the oceans.
Now furniture giant Herman Miller is backing up one step further in the factory-to-ocean chain, by capturing what they call “ocean-bound plastic:”
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“Ocean-bound plastic is plastic material that has not yet found its way into the ocean and is classified as ‘mismanaged waste.’ This is plastic that is not being collected, is unlikely to be collected, and is found within 50 kilometers of a coastline. Common examples of ocean-bound plastic include plastic bottles, jugs, caps, and fishing gear.”
Working with NextWave Plastics, a consortium of brands working to build an ocean-bound plastic supply chain, HM is buying up plastic from mismanaged dump sites in India and Indonesia. With NextWave working with local suppliers to harvest the plastic trash, HM is taking the waste—re-pelletized, of course—and adding it back into one of their hottest sellers: The Aeron Chair.
Depending on the configuration and color, new Aeron chairs will now contain between 0.5 and 2.5 pounds of ocean-bound plastic, or about 23 to 114 water bottles per chair. That may not sound like much individually, but when you consider the chair’s blockbuster sales figures—HM cranks out over a million of them each year—the amount of plastic not going into the ocean starts to add up. And with HM incorporating recycled plastic into other products, from the the Sayl Chair to the OE1 Workplace Collection to the Revenio textile collection, the company reckons they’ll “divert up to 234 metric tons of plastic from the ocean annually, equal to preventing close to 400,000 milk jugs or up to 23 million plastic bottles from entering the ocean annually.”
“On our current trajectory we are at risk of tripling the rate of new plastic entering the ocean every year. A critical strategy to disrupt that path is to demonstrate the value of ocean-bound plastic. In bringing the Aeron Chair made with ocean-bound plastic to market, Herman Miller is not only proving the commercial value of the material, but showcasing the power of collective action in developing ocean-bound plastic supply chains,” said Dune Ives, CEO of Lonely Whale. “Herman Miller, and all members of the NextWave Plastics consortium, are taking the necessary action – today – to make a positive impact for the ocean and for us all.”
“We’re doing more than making an environmental impact,” said Bob Teasley, Director of Supply Management at Herman Miller. “By working with coastal communities around the world to harvest ocean-bound plastic, we’re increasing demand, creating jobs, and boosting economies.”