We all watched Blue Planet II, so we all know how David Attenborough feels about the plastic in our oceans. (It goes without saying that if David's not happy, we're not happy either.) According to a new report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (headed up by the legendary sailor herself), 78 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year, with 40% ending up in landfill and 32% leaking into the seas. Not only does that contaminate the water we drink, it is destroying the homes and lives of all sea creatures, from the tiniest mollusc to the largest whale.
It's a depressing picture, but the fightback has already begun. Armed with the information that plastic production has increased 20-fold over the last 50 years, we're switching to reusable coffee cups and water bottles in our droves. This is progress, and small actions certainly build up to bigger ones, but there is much more to be done as consumers to update almost every aspect of our lifestyles.
There are, of course, tried and tested ways to reduce fashion waste: buy secondhand, buy better quality items less frequently, buy natural fabrics, and avoid items that are produced with catastrophic amounts of water. But today is World Oceans Day, so we want to highlight a relatively new way that fashion brands are fighting plastic waste and pollution. Since 2017, adidas has been collaborating with conservation charity Parley for the Oceans on a Run For The Oceans campaign. Combining the sports giant's innovative technology with Parley's mission to reduce ocean plastic waste, they've paired up to make trainers – you guessed it – from recycled ocean plastic.
Two colour ways of the adidas x Parley Deerupt and three of the Ultraboost style are arriving on Net-A-Porter this June. The trainers have uppers made entirely from upcycled ocean debris, and each pair is fitted with an NFC chip in the heel, which, when scanned in the app, reveals the full story of the shoe, from discarded plastic bottle to fashion product.
adidas isn't the only brand changing its ethos and production methods to reduce ocean plastic waste. Pharrell Williams is the creative director of Bionic Yarn, a company making durable fabric threads from 100% recovered plastic bottles and other ocean debris, making products with brands including G-Star. Ecoalf uses swept-up ocean plastic to create clothes and accessories including ultralight windbreakers and casual trainers. And Sea2See makes classic square-framed sunnies and aviator-style opticals from plastic waste.
Brands making moves to clean up our oceans with upcycled products can only be a good thing. But the next step must be towards reducing and eliminating the fabric from our clothes altogether. That way, they won't need to dredge plastic from the bottom of the sea to make a difference. As consumers, we can use our spending power to let brands know what we want from the fashion industry, so we too have the ability to change the way plastic is produced and sold.
Hopefully, Ellen MacArthur's prediction that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050 won't become a reality. In the meantime, we'll be supporting the brands turning ocean waste into new pieces, and calling for industry-wide change.