Turn Off the Tap

Eric Ryan

Eric Ryan Eric Ryan is co-founder of Method, the leading innovator of premium eco-conscious home and personal care products.

It’s estimated that several million tons of plastic make their way into our oceans every year, polluting the environment and hurting our marine populations.

And the problem isn’t going away anytime soon. More plastic washes up on beaches every day. The only real solution is to turn off the tap and stop producing products made from virgin plastic. That may sound strange coming from the co-founder of a soap company.

The truth is we know we can’t clean up the world’s oceans. The scientists who study this problem will tell you there’s no practical way to do so; the area is just too remote and the plastic too small. But we can raise awareness about the issue and use our business to demonstrate smart ways of using and reusing the plastics that are already on the planet. We think the best way to do that is to prove that solutions exist, even at a small scale. So that’s what we’ve done.

Over the past year and a half, Method employees, with the help of local beach cleanup groups and volunteers, have hand-collected more than 3,000 pounds of plastic from the beaches of Hawaii. Working with our recycling partner, Envision Plastics, which was willing to take a chance on making the impossible possible, we’ve taken plastic from the beach and turned it into bottles. In fact, these are the world’s very first bottles made from a blend of ocean plastic and postconsumer recycled plastic (PCR), which explains their uniquely gray color.

Through this new and innovative use of recovered ocean plastic, we hope to show how design can be used to tackle environmental problems. We’re not saying that the solution to the ocean plastic problem is making bottles out of trash, but by doing so we can prove that there are alternatives to using virgin materials—like using postconsumer recycled plastic, which we use in all of our bottles.

By recycling and reusing existing plastic, we can turn off the tap. And that, we believe, is the first and most important step toward improving the state of our oceans.

We hope others will follow our lead. 

This article was originally published in the January-May 2013 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.