OceanCycle, UL collaborate on standards, ethical sourcing criteria for ocean-bound plastics

The organizations will leverage their expertise in ocean plastics recycling and certification to encourage more responsible sourcing and focus on helping grow the ethically sourced ocean-bound plastics market.

UL, global safety science leader, on June 7 announced its collaboration with OceanCycle, a social enterprise focusing on reducing ocean plastic pollution, on new elevated standards and ethical sourcing criteria for ocean-bound plastics. 

These strengthened industry standards include critical new social standards, ethical sourcing criteria, third-party, independent validation of all recycled ocean-bound plastics, clear definitions of ocean-bound materials and standards on where coastal collection should happen.

Dr. Bill Hoffman, senior scientist at UL, believed the “collaboration with OceanCycle will help bring greater clarity around what should be ocean and ocean-bound plastics. It’s our intent that this clarity around ocean and ocean-bound plastics will lead to more trust for brands and consumers and focus the world’s attention on regions most at risk for ocean plastic pollution.” 

These new elevated standards and ethical sourcing criteria come after two years of close collaboration between UL and OceanCycle to build on each company’s initial standards for ocean-bound materials to help counter greenwashing in the industry.

UL and OceanCycle will continue collaborating to drive dialogue on standards and encourage the industry to agree on common definitions and processes — similar to what the Association of Plastic Recyclers achieved for post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics. 

The companies will leverage their expertise in ocean plastics recycling and certification to encourage more responsible sourcing, focus efforts and resources on countries and coastal regions most at-risk for ocean plastic pollution, and grow the ethically sourced ocean-bound plastics market. 

While it will take time to establish these new standards, they can immediately serve as a guidepost for brands and companies looking to integrate ethically sourced, ocean-bound plastics into their supply chains and products.

Standards for recycled ocean-bound plastics promote real transparency, traceability and accountability for real change. The UL and OceanCycle’s collaboration has resulted in an alignment of standards, providing a 100% independent, third-party certification of ocean-bound plastics’ recycling supply chains to help ensure that standards meet international quality, ethical, environmental and labor requirements. 

Purchasers of OceanCycle Certified™ (OCC) materials have end-to-end traceability, from bottle collection through manufacturing.

OceanCycle also partners with local recyclers to elevate the well-being and livelihoods of the people collecting material in communities. The social audits and surveys help baseline income levels and community needs and give insights to the recyclers, material brokers and brand partners on meeting those needs. 

In many cases, the people collecting the material are the most vulnerable. However, with proper support, they can collect more material in a better manner that both improves incomes and increases recycling rates.

As recycling rates and quality improve, it helps recyclers deliver large volumes of OCC material to manufacturers for use in new products. The manufacturers’ positive experiences in sourcing OCC plastics drive consistent demand that keeps recycling programs operating.

Looking ahead, OceanCycle will work with UL and other industry leaders to help ensure recognition of and adherence to these new standards. The group will collaborate to improve market access to products made from ocean-bound plastics, assisting companies in using more sustainable, responsibly-sourced, recycled materials in their products.

Photo credit: iStock/ ahmet rauf Ozkul

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