When Freshman Jeffery Luo thinks about sportswear, sneakers and soccer, he thinks about the brand with the three stripes— Adidas. Adidas has prevented more than 2,810 tons of plastic from harming our oceans in 2018. However, they are not alone, Adidas has teamed up with reputable environmental organization Parley for the Oceans to make use of more than 150 million tons of plastic circulating in our oceans to make refreshingly fashionable sneakers and clothing, which can be recycled over and over again. And here’s how it’s done.
- Parley for the Oceans and their teams first travel to a coastal area, and then proceed to collect all plastic waste from the beaches. This waste is then sorted by materials Adidas can use, and materials that can be sent to external recycling plants.
- Plastic water bottles specifically contain PET or polyethylene terephthalate, which is one of the key components used to develop Adidas’s signature replacement for harmful virgin polyester.
- The sorted waste then gets sent to processing plants where the plastic gets cleaned and crushed into plastic bits. These bits are further processed using heat and are transformed into resin flakes. These special flakes are used to create Adidas’s signature replacement for harmful virgin polyester— Ocean Plastic.
- Ocean Plastic is a polyester-like string which is woven from the filament created by the resin flakes. The Ocean Plastic is used to form the sock-like uppers of sneakers and the base for jerseys and sportswear, while still providing the top-notch quality, style and craftsmanship of any product made with virgin polyester. Recyclable Adidas apparel is currently used by the Australian Open, the NHL and even the NFL.
Every year, eight million metric tons of plastic enters our oceans, further fueling the inferno of what is 150 million metric tons of plastic circulating our dear oceans this second. And Adidas prevents this issue by reducing the amount of plastic entering our oceans by using sustainable and environmentally friendly means to manufacture their products. However, Adidas alone can’t stop what seems the inevitable doom our planet will face due to the pollution of our oceans. As our plastic waste exponentially increases, we are talking about 250 million tons of plastic in our oceans in the next 10 years.
“I believe that pollution in the ocean is a very serious issue because it will come to bite us back in the future,” MVHS Sophomore Alex Li said. “The whole world depends on the ocean for food and other resources. If those resources get damaged, we will be affected as well.”
Over 1.5 million creatures die each year from plastic debris alone, and these numbers are growing exponentially due to the rise of plastic use in the world. A big issue regarding the priority of solving this problem is awareness.
“I am aware that most of the plastic waste we throw away lands up in landfills or in large dumps in the middle of the ocean,” Junior Pratyush Shanbhag said. “In school, we don’t really learn about what [happens]to the waste we produce.” The equation is simple— no awareness = no action.
But how exactly does plastic pollution affect the organisms living in the oceans, humans, and most importantly- the future of planet Earth itself? Dr. Anshika Kandhway, who has a Ph.D. in Environmental Systems and Masters in Environmental Sciences and Water Resources, elaborates on how exactly plastic pollution affects our planet.
“We have seen photos of many aquatic animals stuck in plastic throughout all types of media,” Dr. Khandway said. “Everyone has seen turtles and seagulls choking on plastic rings, and even eating the plastic itself.” She also adds that “Since plastic is very light it can move long distances. It can drift all the way to the Indian ocean. Even the pristine ocean systems far away get affected.” This brings up the thought that once plastic enters the ocean, where could it end up?
“[Plastic] is degraded very easily,” Dr. Kandhway said. “The microplastics formed from degraded plastic are toxic and get ingested to organisms, and when another organism eats the organism the toxins get in its body like mercury.”
What some fail to realize, is that pollution in the ocean doesn’t merely affect seagulls and fish who get caught and choke on plastic parts, but also affect society as a whole. The United States consumed approximately 7.1 million tons of seafood in 2018, which pales in comparison to China which consumed 65 million tons of seafood. As Dr. Kandhway explained, the toxins present in seafood due to microplastics can end up in our body and affect us, as we consume tons and tons of seafood.
“Plastics disturb the whole ecosystem,” she said. “Once the ocean gets disturbed, it has a ripple effect and ends up affecting the entire ecosystem. As the ocean is responsible for taking out the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the plastic changes the ocean’s pH, and once it changes that, the overall equilibrium of Co2 to a gaseous state to liquid changes, which intensifies climate change.”
Climate change is a large topic being discussed among scientists around the world regarding the increase in average global temperature. As plastics in the ocean seem to intensify the effects of climate change, this is yet another way plastics harm humans as well.
Now let’s take a crazy step and widen our worldview. What if society developed to remove the use of plastic and live sustainably?
“I can imagine a world that runs on sustainable materials, but the idea of it being realistic in even the next hundred years sounds unreasonable,” Li said. “People gain so much in profit from using these non-sustainable materials that they would lose money if they try to change to renewable resources. However I believe that if the world comes together and slowly makes steps to change the way they use resources, the earth will become much healthier and heal.”
Money is what is driving society right now, and will continue to drive society until the world faces a losing battle with the forces of nature. The reason scientists and environmentalists around the world try to bring awareness to issues like climate change and pollution in the oceans is to bring the world to solve a problem, which can’t be solved until society shifts its mindset from the pursuit of money to the healing of our planet, and sustainable use of Earth’s resources to provide a future for generations to come.
Adidas has taken the first step to making this idea of a utopia where we live in a society which runs on sustainable resources a reality. However, humanity as a whole must join hands and help clean our very special Earth, and make this utopia real.