Today more and more eco-conscious brands are creating ocean plastic jewelry. Below we’ve curated 6 of our favourite brands who use plastic waste collected from the ocean to create beautiful and wearable jewelry.
Individuals and brands are becoming more creative with recycling post-consumer plastics. This initiative is welcome because plastics in our water is a bigger epidemic than we think. The plastic debris we see floating on the surface accounts for only 5% of the plastics in the ocean. The other 95% is submerged beyond the surface level2. Which means that as bad as this view may seem…
...it only accounts for 5% of the plastic pollution in this water body.
Ocean plastic jewelry brands are working within their capacities to make our oceans cleaner and safer for marine life. Their biggest contribution is sourcing the raw materials for their designs through the collection of plastic debris from water bodies. Some of these brands also fund mass cleanup efforts or donate parts of their profits to organizations working to improve marine life.
Synne Skjulstad, a communication and design professor, recently organized an ocean plastic jewelry design project to learn about its process and potential impact1. The Norwegian fjords served as a source for the plastics used in this study. Once collected, each plastic piece was treated as a precious raw material. This project told a story of the lifecycle process of everyday plastics which we use and easily discard. Brands who pay attention and choose to sift through these plastics to create beauty out of them are bringing much-needed awareness and change.
As we know, the fashion industry and environmental sustainability, for the most part, are poles apart. Not only do fashion items release 1.4 trillion tonnes of plastics into water bodies every year3, but there is also an increasing churn rate of items. Fast fashion brands provide the opportunity to buy and toss out clothing and jewelry pieces as quickly as trends change or a replacement item hits the shelves. Thankfully, there are a few brands willing to send a different message using sustainability, design and beauty.
The brands listed below are taking action to raise awareness of the impact of plastics in our ocean. If you’re looking to buy new jewelry or to spend your money on a worthy cause, here are seven jewelry brands you should consider.
This brand carries hand-crafted jewelry that is recycled from ocean plastics and precious metals. Kat Crabill, founder of Nurdle in the Rough, lives in Hawaii and collects all the materials used from Hawaiian beaches and shorelines.
Kat gets very personal with the jewelry making process, giving her customers a behind-the-scenes view of how it all comes together. The plastics are collected from Kamilo Beach, which is on the Kau coast of Hawaii. In the past, native Hawaiians searched this area for canoe logs. Today, the area is covered in plastic waste. Kat fills her bags with plastics and metals, then takes them back to her studio to recycle.
One admirable quality of this brand is that Kat does not just gather materials for her jewelry alone. She collects as much plastic as her truck can hold. Then, she distributes the load for recycling, research, other artistic purposes, and surprisingly, for electricity generation. Beyond the cleanup, Nurdle in the Rough also donates 10% of its income to Hawaii’s Wildlife Fund.
La Garza is a jewelry brand located in the heart of Bermuda. The owner, Tara, has been in the Triangle for years collecting beach plastics that wash onto Bermuda shores and fashioning them into jewelry. Well known for its plastic jewelry, La Garza preserves everything from the invasive lionfish to the sand and sea fan. Tara tells TRVST,
"I enjoy turning "trash" into tiny treasures and everywhere I look, there's plastic to use. I hope for my jewelry to inspire conversation, awareness and other artists to upcycle anything and everything, there are endless possibilities."
Tara is currently in the process of launching the plastics collection under a new company, Plastiseas. This new endeavor intends to act as a market for upcycled plastics and art, selling artisans from around the globe. For now, you can shop her unique pieces on La Garza.
Addy White founded OceanPlastics hoping to change how we think about microplastics. Growing up as an oyster farmer in Massachusetts, Addy saw the effects which pollution was having on the health of marine life. She went on to travel the world as a professional sailor, where she saw this issue reach far beyond her small hometown.
Addy tells TRVST that she started collecting plastic while walking the beaches of South Florida with her dog, Ollie. Not being able to recycle the microplastics she collected, she amassed a large collection in her home and had to think creatively about how to use it. With her skills and abundant resources, Addy started to design a wide array of jewelry and accessories. Now, OceanPlastics partners with many beach cleanup organizations in South Florida to remove and recycle harmful plastics from the environment.
The mission of OceanPlastics has always been to design fun, sophisticated pieces for people that love the water and want to take care of the oceans. By using responsibly sourced materials, people can be proud of what they're wearing. ”Just because it's made from trash doesn't mean it has to look like garbage,” says Addy. OceanPlastic hopes to inspire people to take steps to reduce their plastic usage.
Along with each piece being created from microplastic collected off the beach, all packaging is made from recycled materials and is biodegradable. Plus every piece includes carbon offset shipping. For each purchase, a donation is made to the Surfrider Foundation to support their continued efforts to protect our oceans, waves, and beaches.
4Ocean was founded by two people, Alex and Andrew, who spend a lot of time at the beach swimming, diving, fishing, and surfing. A few years ago, they decided to visit Bali and explore its beautiful beaches. But what they arrived at were shorelines covered in plastic waste and other debris. When they complained, a local told them that the beach was cleaned just a few hours before their arrival. Every day, the beaches were cleaned. And every day more trashed washed onshore.
The duo decided to start their company and sell bracelets to raise money for ocean cleanup exercises. 4Ocean isn’t a jewelry company per se. Rather, it is a company that sells jewelry to support its cause. They offer a wide selection of bracelet styles and colors; although blue is their most popular color option. Each bracelet is made from recycled ocean plastic, while the glass beads are made from glass bottles collected from the ocean.
From pendants to earrings and rings, Emma Burton makes beautiful jewelry using ocean plastics and sea glass. Each item is unique, of course, because they are made from random objects found at sea. Emma, the brand creator, is a trained architect and silversmith, which is evident in her product design. Through their ‘Planet Collection’, the brand is focused on creating authentic and wearable pieces that brings awareness to this environmental issue. On their Instagram page, they emphasize on making conscious purchases, as well as reducing plastic use.
Emma Burton handpicks the materials for her ‘Planet Collection’ designs along the sea. She also carries out ‘beach cleans’ which involves picking up litter and small pieces that could be swallowed by marine creatures. She works towards keeping the beaches around her clean while raising awareness through her jewelry pieces.
Creators of this brand, Rob and Melody Webster, were originally directors of a marine science adventure program. They gave beach tours to students to teach on the negative impact of plastic waste. Over time, the couple identified that the most common plastics they saw were fishing ropes, which were discarded into the waters all the time. Rob and Melody eventually started removing those ropes, when they could, and taking them home.
Planet Love Life was the couple’s big idea to spread awareness of plastic waste, especially fishing ropes, in the ocean. Melody and Rob began to repurpose the ropes they were bringing back home into bracelets. Today, the brand carries several bracelet designs made from repurposed plastics found in water bodies.
The bracelets sold also contribute to their continued mission of marine education and preventing wildlife entanglement. Planet Love Life organizes community projects and partnerships to remove plastics from as many water bodies as they can reach.
These ocean plastic jewelry brands bring a new meaning to the phrase ‘repurposed plastics’. If you choose to wear them, you’re not only contributing to a cause that is focused on environmental sustainability. You’re also creating an opportunity for people to ask you about your unique jewelry, and for you to spread some awareness.
One recurring feedback from customers of these brands is about the several questions they receive concerning their unique jewelry. Beyond starting conversations, you will also be giving your money to companies that fund the mass cleanup of oceans around the world. You can finally wear beautiful jewelry and make small, impactful changes at the same time.
|Skjulstad, Synne. (2019). TAKING CARE OF PLASTIC: DISCURSIVE JEWELLERY AND ANTHROPOGENIC DEBRIS.|
|Plastics in the Marine Environment. Kara Lavender Law. Annual Review of Marine Science 2017 9:1, 205-229|
|COMBATING MICROFIBER POLLUTION. Microfibre Action Roadmap, Ocean Conservancy, 2017|