Manufacturer's Plastic - It's Time For Change

Ocean First   Jul 06, 2022

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats facing the health of our ocean – Texas-sized swirling masses of micro-plastics, turtles with straws stuck in their noses, albatross dying with stomachs full of plastic bits, it's enough to cause serious alarm for anyone paying attention.

Reducing plastic consumption should be a top priority for everyone, particularly those in the dive industry. And yet, with every shipment of dive gear Ocean First receives, we are bombarded with mounds of plastic packaging. Bags within bags, plastic boxes with bags inside them, plastic foam, non-recyclable peanuts, the list goes on.

Actions speak louder than words, so Ocean First's staff decided to make a statement. We accumulated one month of plastic packaging and shipped it back to the headquarters of each manufacturer with the hope that by being confronted with the visual intrusion of all their packaging, along with vocal consternation from a reputable customer, they would consider changing their ways.

The reactions were swift - Ocean First received numerous calls from the heads of global marketing acknowledging our cries. They understood the problem and committed to address it, but if past industry behavior is any indication it won't be as fast or dramatic as we hope.

Plastic is popular with manufacturers because it is cheap and easy - the same reasons it has proliferated and become ubiquitous in our world. It takes innovation to combat global challenges, but there are creative ways to tackle 21st century problems. Consider just how important each piece of plastic packaging is for each stage of the production process. What could we do better or differently? What are the alternatives to plastic? Can recycled cardboard or plant-based materials be used instead? What about implement a closed-loop recycling system?

Fourth Element is an excellent example of a company that is committed to change by actively addressing its supply chain. We are proud to carry their products at Ocean First. In addition to manufacturing Ocean Positive products from recycled ghost fishing nets, they send their shipments in plant-based packing material without an ounce of unnecessary plastic. I spoke to their team about the packaging for their neoprene booties and they identified an innovative strategy- instead of putting pairs of booties in individual cardboard boxes, they took it a step further and decided to use small carabiners to hold the booties together. So simple yet effective in reducing waste!

Just recently, Huish Outdoors issued the following statement in their newsletter: "Plastic bags have now been removed from all regulator packaging and Hollis/Oceanic mask packing. As Huish Outdoors continues to grow, it's important for us to continually reevaluate our methods and align them more closely with sustainable best practices. As passionate divers and outdoor lovers, it's important to us to make small, but effective changes whenever possible.” Since our discussions with Huish began, Aqua Lung made a similar announcement that they are removing packaging from their booties in 2020.

It's a baby step - regulators, masks, and booties are just the beginning of an industry wide change. Companies will be forced to make changes or risk losing their customers. In the dive industry, we literally come face-to-face with the marine environment where animal's lives are in peril. It's time for us to stand up and tell the big players in our industry to become leaders in the fight for a healthier, sustainable planet. We are all stakeholders, so it’s time we all do our part.