Sea plastics find a new life as Jenga, Barbies, Skateboards and more

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At least once a week, Tess Felix goes to a beach near San Francisco to get art supplies. The artist fills her grocery bags with Barbie doll shoes, pens, toothpick dental floss, sand shovels, toy cars, and other trash that has washed ashore. At home she sorts the items by color. She then begins to piece together sea plastic portraits, using a white fork for an arm, a cream-colored comb for hair, and a beige dinosaur for a shoulder.

“I like creating beauty out of this horrible, wasteful material,” Felix said at her California studio, which she described as a “garbage pit.”

Felix is ​​part of a group of artists, environmentalists and manufacturers who are finding a second purpose for marine plastics, which kill more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The artworks and products that don’t smell fishy or look like the contents of your recycling bin are important to the ocean conservation movement: removing or preventing trash from entering our waters and raising awareness of the issue.

“We made a mess, and we need to clean it up,” said Matt Dwyer, vice president of product innovation and impact at Patagonia, which uses recycled fishing nets in its NetPlus line of clothing. “We try not to let the bad stuff into the oceans.”

Going plastic-free is the best way to protect our oceans. But kids can also help the cause by playing with ocean plastic or by wearing merchandise like Bureo’s Minnow skateboard, 4ocean bracelets, Upcycle Hawaii earrings, and Patagonia’s trucker hat brims, board shorts, and jackets.

Unfortunately, many ocean plastics cannot be converted into everyday objects. The debris is either too small or too degraded to be turned into pellets or fabrics that companies use as raw materials. As an alternative, many companies pack the trash before it hits the water. This category of recyclables is known as oceanbound plastics. By definition, the garbage must be within 31 miles of the coast and in an area without a good garbage disposal system. For example, the Ocean Recovery Group collects plastic from the sea in the Dominican Republic, an island nation in the Caribbean.

A year ago, Mattel launched its first line of toys made from Mexican plastic: the Barbie Loves the Ocean collection, which includes three dolls, a Beach Shack playset and accessories. Last month, the toymaker added another recycled plastic figure, the Jane Goodall Inspiring Women Doll, celebrating the legendary chimpanzee researcher and conservationist.

Since 2013, Bureo has prevented more than 7.2 million pounds of discarded fishing nets from entering the marine environment. The company collects old gear from fishermen in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico and California. “Some of them are as long as a football field,” said Greg Swienton, the company’s director of marketing.

After the nets have been cut, washed, shredded, and pelletized, they’re ready to begin their new lives – as sunglass frames, Jenga toy figures, surfboard fins, and bike bottle cages. Bureo also uses the repurposed webs in its flying discs. The design on the Fishnet Flyer illustrates the journey of the nets, beginning but not ending in the ocean.

A reminder from the KidsPost team: Our stories are aimed at 7-13 year olds. We welcome discussions from readers of all ages, but please follow our community rules and make comments that are age-appropriate.

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