By Sasha Banks-Louie, Brand Journalist, OraclePhotos of sea turtles entangled and dying in straightjackets made of ocean plastic waste have helped propel a movement to remove some of the 8 million metric tons of plastic trash that flows into our oceans each year. Such images also fuel an estimated $73 billion market for recycled plastics.
Despite higher costs to extract and recycle ocean plastic compared to the cost of producing new plastic, a recent study from Accenture shows 72% of consumers worldwide are buying more environmentally friendly products than five years ago.
“It’s such an easy yes,” says Vanessa Coleman, CEO of Oceanworks, a startup online marketplace for recycled plastic materials and products. “The material quality is there, the capacity is there, and of course, the environmental benefits are there.” Coleman says such factors are contributing to “vigorous adoption” of recycled ocean plastics by makers of consumer and industrial goods.
Coleman and her team at Oceanworks are coordinating with several global brands and Fortune 500 companies to source recycled ocean plastic from the company’s global network of plastic recyclers. Oceanworks’ customers turn the recycled material into all sorts of new products, including zippers, credit cards, fabric, buttons, and yarn.
Oceanworks runs a track-and-trace application to certify that the plastic that manufacturers source is actually recycled ocean plastic. For many eco-conscious brands, making sure the plastic they use is in fact recycled ocean plastic is difficult. “Without an offering like Oceanworks, brands are forced to do a lot of legwork to find and validate these materials,” Coleman says.
Launched in 2018, the Los Angeles-based Oceanworks has more than 100 customers and supply capacity of more than 190,000 tons of ocean plastic a year, from collection sites across six continents.
To authenticate the recycled ocean plastics in its global supplier network, Oceanworks, which is part of the Oracle for Startups program, built a track-and-trace application that runs on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
The Oceanworks application stores data about each container of recycled ocean plastic, generates certificates of authenticity for the resin content, and provides details about the material flow, such as the place where the plastic was collected, when it was recycled, and the locations of the compounders, recyclers, and manufacturers that handled it.
“Without an offering like Oceanworks, brands are forced to do a lot of legwork to find and validate these materials.”
Oceanworks was introduced to the Oracle for Startups program through the Alliance to End Plastic Waste Plug and Play Tech Center accelerator. “We had already been looking at Oracle and were impressed with its infrastructure and experience with track-and-trace technology,” says Paul Cheek, vice president of engineering at Oceanworks. As the startup adds suppliers and customers, Oceanworks plans to continue partnering with Oracle to bring in advanced technology to enhance its platform.
“We’ll be looking to Oracle to help us bolster our track and trace capabilities, providing an even stronger and more traceable set of products and materials,” Cheek says. “That will require implementing additional technology that we can use to help empower our suppliers.”