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News That Rocks: Willow Ridge is now part of the Okeanos family.
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Product & Innovation

Wait seriously, that’s stone? I didn’t think it would bend!” People’s first experience with a product Made From Stone™ is always exciting. They don’t often realize that our calcium-carbonate based technology can be used to make products that are flexible, uniquely shaped, can float, and can be sturdy, thin, thick, or smooth! There are many misconceptions about our technology, so we thought we’d bust a few of these myths.

  • How is Made From Stone different than the paper and plastic alternatives?
When choosing between a product that is 100% plastic, and one that is paper, paper is the superior choice. However, when we introduce packaging Made From Stone into the equation, the rock rocks! Why? Products Made From Stone will break down in a shorter period of time and have a smaller carbon footprint than those made from both plastic and paper.  The full life (LCA) of plastic creates about four kg of CO2 per kg used, for paper it creates approximately nine kg per kg used and stone only needs 0.075 kg per kg and has no footprint on degradation  because we don’t have to, it is already in its natural state. Plus, calcium carbonate is a naturally renewable resource with more available on Earth than we could ever use.
  • Why making the stone float is so important? 

Depending on the type of binder that we use, we need make the product either float or sink, so they are correctly separated into the right stream – not a simple task. Creating the right end-of life solution for each possible scenario was a critical responsibility on this project. We can compost, recycle or biodegrade.

  • Does it look, feel and taste like stone?

Another common misconception is that it will be heavy, taste minerally, or feel grainy. We’re here to tell you this isn’t true! The way our calcium carbonate is processed yields a light white powder. This means any product made with it will have a stark white hue and can be easily colored for any logos or artwork. Products including milk cartons, water bottles, straws, diapers, or coffee cups Made From Stone will feel like any other product, and won’t affect the taste of whatever is in the container.

  • Is it safe for humans and animals?  

Lastly, we want to squash any misconceptions about the safety and viability of our technology. Calcium carbonate is safe if ingested (though we wouldn’t recommend you eat your packaging).  It is used in medicines, (if you’ve ever eaten an antacid, you’ve tasted Calcium Carbonate before and not even known it) and is safe for people, plants, animals, and the ocean!

Mother Nature Warriors

Malia, a member of our Okeanos® team, and her father were paddle boarding and admiring the tranquil beauty of Henderson Bay in the Puget Sound. Without warning a young killer whale broke through the glassy surface looking at them with a curious intelligence. Then, as they were wiping away their happy tears, they witnessed one of the rarest sightings in the natural world: among the pod was a pure white juvenile; an albino orca – only 10 of her kind are thought to exist worldwide.

In this Earth Day edition of our newsletter, we shared this story to highlight the importance of protecting the natural world, and preserving the beauty and wonder Mother Nature has created for us. Okeanos is passionate about the preservation of the world’s natural wonders, and in particular those that exist in the oceans, for which Okeanos is named. Environmental movements often use the slogan “going green,” even though 70% of our earth is actually blue and even produces 50% of the oxygen we breath. If we fail to take care of our marine ecosystems, the consequences will be drastic.

There are lots of small things you can do daily to contribute that make a big difference, including disposing of waste properly, buying sustainable products and locally sourced food, or turning off the lights when you leave the room. Joining organizations around the globe, like Okeanos, is a fantastic option too.

We’re collecting more stories from those of you who’ve had amazing close encounters with wildlife. Share your story with us!

Q&A with Dr. Steve Weisberg,
Executive Director of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP)
Okeanos’ innovations are fueled by what we’ve been able to learn from global environmental research and education. Guided by our Scientific Advisory Board, we have been introduced to leading researchers around the world, and are actively following their work in the areas of water quality, microplastics, and the effects of pollution on marine environments. The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) is one of the leading organizations in the world conducting this type of research. 
 

Dr. Steve Weisberg is the Executive Director of SCCWRP, an aquatic science research institute that works to improve the management of aquatic systems in Southern California and beyond.  He sat down with Okeanos for a Zoom interview about his work.  

  • How long have you been with SCCWRP and how do you best describe the organization’s mission? 

The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project Authority was established by 14 water quality management agencies in California. Our purpose is to develop strategies and tools to protect and enhance the ecological health of our oceans and the watersheds that drain into them. I have been with SCCWRP since 1996 and am currently the Executive Director.

Our research is focused on a number of areas including flow criteria for streams, meaning how much flow in a stream do you need to maintain biology, and how we measure, monitor and manage emerging contaminants, meaning chemicals you don’t even know are out there. We are also one of the leading institutions in the world on the topic of Ocean Acidification, which is the acidity of ocean water caused by an increase in global CO2 emissions. Ocean acidification can be combated by the introduction of calcium carbonate, which is why these studies would be of particular interest to Okeanos. I am also the chair of California’s Ocean Acidification Task Force.

  • How is the SCCWRP responsible for shaping environmental regulations? 

We are a neutral agency, and do not work on government regulation or policy. Our role is to develop the science foundation that supports regulation and policy. We help governments understand the research conducted by our teams and translate that science into actionable information that guides management decision-making and policy development.

  • What is SCCWRP’s role in developing microplastic evaluation and measurement?

The State of California and our member agencies are at the forefront of international efforts to implement the way we measure microplastics. In 2018, the state legislature passed two bills that required California to develop strategies for measuring microplastics in both drinking water and coastal oceans. We are looking to help them determine the extent of the problem and researching the health effects of microplastics for drinking water and human exposure, as well as the effects they have on ambient marine environments and organisms like plankton and fish.

California and our member agencies have two critical needs. First, developing standard methods for how microplastics are measured – in order to eventually enact regulations, the government needs to ensure that there is a process in place for consistent measurement. The second task would be developing a laboratory accreditation program to ensure that the labs are able to appropriately employ those measurement methods. Right now, we are helping California to develop a series of standard methods for measuring microplastics, and training their laboratory accreditation teams on how to inspect labs.

  • In your opinion, what is the most detrimental factor of single-use plastic in marine environments?  

When looking at this question, there are three mechanisms for effect that we are focused on: False satiation, Chemical Absorption, and Translocation.

False satiation happens when organisms eat the tiny microplastics, infuse them with things like zooplankton and then they think they’re full. When this happens, they don’t get nutritional value from the microplastics, but their stomachs feel full. In effect, they end up starving themselves of nutrient-rich foods. It’s also been found that plastics absorb chemicals, and so you might get toxic chemicals that absorb into the plastics. When something ingests these microplastics, those chemicals now come in a more concentrated form that have the potential to be released by the digestive processes. Scientists are also looking at translocation across cells, meaning that if microplastics come in and they’re small enough to cross the gut lining or gills, it has the potential to cause physical hazard within the critter, whether it’s absorbed into the bloodstream or into different organs.

  • How is the addition of Calcium Carbonate beneficial to ocean environments?

Battling acidification can be done by either removing CO2 or adding calcium carbonate, which sequesters CO2. One of the negatives of acidification is that it consumes calcium carbonate. Because of this, there is not enough calcium carbonate left for organisms to make their shells. Or they have to work harder to make their shells to remove calcium carbonate from the water, requiring them to exert more energy to do so. With acidification, the shells can become so thin that they are oftentimes no longer protective. When there is an abundance of CaCO3 in the marine environment, it’s easier to make more durable, longer-lasting shells.

  • Why would a calcium carbonate based product be a better alternative to other types of packaging like cardboard and plant-based?

Paper and plant based products, when they degrade, consume oxygen and create CO2. When something gets oxidized and degrades in the ocean, it’s adding to acidification. A calcium carbonate-based product has the potential advantage of improving acidification conditions.

  • What is the most exciting element to you about Made From Stone technology? 

With the majority of the packaging being calcium carbonate – you’re potentially solving two problems at once: reducing the amount of plastic entering into the environment at the source, and if the product somehow ends up in the ocean, introducing additional calcium carbonate into marine environments at a time when acidification is growing worse.

Rockstar of the Month

Hernán is an accomplished team member currently working as our Director of Operations, based out of Argentina. He received his bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology and assisted teaching analytical chemistry classes for three years at Pharmacy and Biochemistry University. Not only is he incredibly bright, but he also brings eleven years of experience from the beverage industry and worked in the most recognized consumer goods companies. His passion for his job stems from his interests, an avid diver, he makes the most of being outdoors.

  • What inspires you about Okeanos’ mission and how does this associate with your passion? 

Reducing plastic pollution, particularly in the ocean as an enthusiastic diver is what really connects me to my passion. However, what inspires me the most is seeking a better world for our children and future generations.

  • Why did you choose to pursue a career in Operation – Supply chain?

It is a great way to get involved with almost all areas of the company. Internally you have projects with the Technical Team, Sales and Finance but also Legal and Marketing. Overall, it’s a strategic position that lets you have a peak of every area of the business. Also, having contact with external stakeholders such as customers and vendors helps to have permanent contact with the industry.

  • What do you like the most about your role and what are your favorite challenges in the field?

I enjoy working with people from all over the world, understanding the different realities in each region. Talking in the morning with someone in India, then at noon in Brazil, and in the evening in  Spain and at night in Saudi Arabia or Vietnam, there is always someone to talk to!

  • From your point of view, what are the benefits of locally sourcing compound and stone? And in what ways are your decisions affected by the carbon footprint? 

Besides decreasing the carbon footprint and CO2 emissions, one of the most important benefits is that we help the local economies to develop and add value to their natural resources. By trying to improve every aspect of the supply chain process it helps us be a more efficient and environmentally sustainable operation.

  • As productivity and efficiency increase, how would you ensure that quality is maintained? 

Quality is non-negotiable; it is a must. We understand it is the differential value that will open many paths in such a competitive industry. We monitor every step of the process; from selecting raw materials which comply only with the strictest standards, to choosing wisely our partners who have not only the technological capabilities but also the human resources experiences on processing our “stones”. We pay close attention to our customer’s needs and we have the right people guiding them to implement the benefits of this technology.

  • How do you think the supply chain has changed in today’s world? What is a key factor to make it out there? 

Globalization greatly affects the management and execution of commercial transactions. To cope with these changes, we must establish the correct design of the supply chain. The supply chain aims not only to reduce costs and a more effective value chain to stay competitive, but also to find ways to provide value-added services to meet the needs of the most sophisticated customers.

With the continuous development and maturity of the supply chain, cooperation between customers and suppliers is a key aspect to attend. The level of collaboration is not limited to linking information systems with fully integrated business processes and organizational structures in the companies that make up the entire value chain.

  • Who and what inspires you to be the best version of yourself?

I have two beautiful children and a fantastic wife who stand beside me in every decision I make. Seeing how the children grow and how they interiorize everything you say, every act you do, how they learn from the models they have in front (for the good and for the bad); it gives you a deeper sense of responsibility that leaves you no option than trying to improve every day, because of course, you want them to be better than you. I’m also inspired by nature, I used to live in Patagonia for two years and lived a short distance away from a UNESCO biosphere reserve. It had clear water where you could snorkel with sea lions, see penguins and elephant seals on the beaches and whale-watch from boats. It was always a great place for me to recharge my batteries.

  • What is a trip that has particularly marked your life?  

End of 2018, I had been working for over ten years in the same company until I finally got the courage to pursue something different. Before looking for new horizons, with my wife and kids we decided to do a family trip through the entire Argentina and Chile’s Patagonia. 15,000 km by car in two months. More than 25 cities/villages, almost one town every two-three days. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and back again to the Atlantic. Through the Andes mountains, to the “end of the world” (the world’s southernmost city). Through lakes, glaciers, deserts to astonishing almost virgin beaches. Experiencing all the splendor of nature in an intact environment definitely marked my life.”

Foundation

While many aspects of day to day life have been disrupted as a result of COVID-19, there are a few changes we’ve noticed that we’re hoping become permanent. Air pollution is clearing in most parts of the world, animals that haven’t been seen in certain areas for years are returning, and people are making more sustainable choices without even noticing, like walking or biking instead of driving, and cultivating windowsill gardens instead of heading to the store.  While we all wish our lives would go back to “normal”, we also have hope that there is a “new normal,” one where the choices we make in our day to day lives can be good for us and good for the environment.

While we adapt to new ways of living under stay-at-home orders, we’re turning to our friends and foundation partners, Orange County Coastkeeper, for some binge-worthy ideas we can utilize now and after quarantine. Their amazing platform features a series of videos that can teach you everything from how to grow your own veggies to how to select sustainable fish at the market. They also offer valuable insights from the EPA and more! To start watching click here.

Okeanos looks forward to working toward a more sustainable, thoughtful “new normal” together. “By teaching youth sustainable practices such as recycling, green gardening and keeping our waterways free of plastic we are creating a cleaner world for generations to come,” explains Marianne Hugo of Orange County Coastkeeper. “Orange County Coastkeeper is proud to partner with Okeanos to educate the next generation of environmental stewards on making a difference in their world.”

Jobs & Opportunities

While things around the world are slowing down, Okeanos is ramping up!

We’d like to welcome all our new members from France,  United Kingdom, Romania, Mexico, India, Bangladesh, Uruguay, Colombia and United States. They will be joining our different teams in sales, operations, innovation, marketing, finance and philanthropies. We continue to grow our company on a global scale because change doesn’t happen with one person in one place, it takes all of us coming together. We are currently hiring in Miami BeachBogotáBuenos AiresMumbai and Dhaka. Follow us on Linkedin for new announcements on job openings around the world! Coming soon to Cincinnati, Dubai, Madrid, São Paulo, and Cairo.

And don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Facebook!


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