Hungry for Plastic

It’s time to admit we have a plastic problem. Once the go-to solution for storage, packaging, and manufacturing, plastic has become pervasive in every environment in the world, including our digestive systems. A virgin plastic bottle can live on earth for 400+ years, and while it doesn’t disappear completely, it does break down into smaller and smaller pieces over time. These pieces, measuring less than 5 mm in length, are referred to as microplastics, and they’re in everything from the food we eat to the cosmetics we use.

According to a study by the University of Newcastle in Australia, the average human eats, drinks, and breathes up to 2,000 particles of microplastics a week, equivalent to the size of a credit card!  Of those, “as many as 1,769 particles of plastic every week [come from] drinking water — bottled or from the tap,” according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Microplastics come from other everyday products too. Microbeads, which are tiny spheres of plastic commonly used in facewash to provide exfoliating properties, flow uninhibited down your drain when you wash your face, through the filters of water treatment plants, and into the ocean, where they can be ingested by a fish that may wind up on your dinner plate. Scientists are developing technology to trace microplastic and nano-plastic particles in human organs. Though not enough research has been completed to know the long-term effects, we do know that these particles have negatively affected animal life and could potentially be very hazardous to human life.

Our Made From Stone technology is designed to eliminate up to 80% of plastic in packaging, stemming the tide of plastic entering the environment, and significantly reducing the potential for the creation of microplastics.

Sources:The Guardian & Ecowatch

Have you ever wondered why raindrops roll easily off your raincoat or why your pizza leaves greasy residue on the paperboard pizza box it came in? The answer is a collection of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

Today, these “forever-chemicals” are found in everything from firefighting foam and raincoats to food packaging and wrappers. PFAS are added to products to make them resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease, and water, but the same capabilities that make them desirable also make them difficult to eliminate. Every PFAS ever produced is still in existence today. The presence of PFAS in humans has been linked to cancer, liver damage, immune disorders, pregnancy complications, among other illnesses. 

A large portion of paper and compostable food packaging has been found to contain PFAS. A study by the Silent Springs Institute found that that “almost half of fast-food wrappers that hold items ranging from burgers to pastries contained evidence of fluorinated compounds. About 20 percent of paperboard samples, including French fry and pizza boxes, did as well.”

You may be ingesting PFAS in other ways. The Environmental Working Group says that as many as 110 million Americans may be drinking water contaminated with PFAS. Two chemicals in particular, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), can move through soil and contaminate drinking water. According to the film, The Devil We Know, a documentary narrated by actor and environmentalist Mark Ruffalo, PFOA, the PFAS used to make Teflon non-stick cookware until 2013, can now be found in the blood of 99% of Americans.

While there are no enforceable PFAS limits in the United States at the federal level, individual state governments including California, Maine, Washington, New Hampshire and Colorado have recently passed bills banning the use of PFAS in certain products. In 2019, the European Union committed to establishing PFAS limits for drinking water in its 28 member nations. Brands are also taking it upon themselves to remove PFAS from their products and packaging.

We are proud to say that Okeanos’ signature Made From Stone technology does not contain any PFAS and since stone is naturally waterproof, you don’t have to worry about your food getting soggy in our packaging or harming your body. If you are a manufacturer currently using compound that may contain PFAS, please get in touch with us and we can help you make the switch to PFAS-free packaging!

We are thrilled to announce that Okeanos has begun production in the beautiful country of Colombia. The production of our compounds is guaranteed to be a success at the hands of our established technical team in Bogotá, in collaboration with the Okeanos Innovation team in Cincinnati. 

We would like to extend a special “Thank You” to María Ángelica Restrepo and Jaime Amaya for spearheading the launch of our production including the manufacture of all of our compounds, film and thermoforming technology! The result is a great quality product using Colombian stone, with a very low carbon footprint. Brands are lining up to get involved and Okeanos is on the rise. We are on a mission to bring our sustainable solution to everyone around the world. Keep up with our newsletter to see which three countries Okeanos is ramping up in next!

Learn more about us here!

In this month’s issue, we’re continuing our “Sustainability” series with Dr. Russ Petrie. This week, we’re exploring Acidification Potential.

Q:  What is acidification potential, and why is it an important consideration?

A: Acidification potential (AP) is an important performance indicator when studying the lifecycle analysis (LCA) of a product. Acidification occurs when substances with low pH, meaning they are very acidic, are introduced to water and soils at such a high volume that they don’t become naturally neutralized. Therefore, the acidification potential is a measure for the potential effect something has on acidification of soils and waters.  The higher the AP value, the higher the risk of acid rain and associated environmental damage.

Q: Acid Rain? That sounds serious!

A: It can be. Acid rain occurs when sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen 8 oxides (NOX) form  sulfuric  and nitric acid in contact with water in the atmosphere. Acid rain can cause corrosion of buildings, and lead to nutrient leaching and decreased vegetation in soil. Acidification of lakes can lead to death of certain species living there. Acid rain isn’t just rain though. The acids formed in the atmosphere fall to the ground mixed with rain, snow, fog, or hail.  Without moisture, acidic particles and gases can also enter the environment with dust as part of a process called dry deposition. The acidic particles and gases may be carried by the wind to bodies of water, plants and buildings, and with the next rain, be washed into the soil causing harm to plants and wildlife.

Q: But what causes acidification?

A: According to the  EPA, the major sources of SO2 and NOX in the atmosphere are from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, vehicles and heavy equipment, and manufacturing, oil refineries and other industries. Winds can blow SO2 and NOX over long distances and across borders making acid rain a problem for everyone and not just those who live close to these sources.

Q: So which type of packaging has the highest the acidification potential, and what’s the acidification potential of Made From Stone?

A: PHA, PET and PS have the highest acidification potentials in some  published  Lifecycle Analyses.  Estimating the relative potential benefit Made From Stone products  is difficult to do as this requires comparing different Lifecycle Analyses. However, the reduction in acidification potential  could be as  much  as 50%  of  PET and PS, and about 25%  reduction  compared  to other polymers  depending on how much calcium carbonate (CaCO3). This is based on a formulation with 51% CaCO3, higher amounts of CaCO3 will potentially result in greater reductions.  Our goal is to reach 80% CaCO3 based products.

Our September Rockstar is Okeanos IT Director Bruna Brant. Bruna oversees our robust network of IT solutions, and the work that she does every day has been integral to keeping our global team connected throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Bruna is a passionate advocate for sustainable living and embodies the ideals of Okeanos in her daily life.

Q: Tell us about your childhood? Did you spend a lot of time by the Ocean?

A: I was born in Belo Horizonte, in the Southeast region of Brazil, close to Rio and Sao Paolo. I had a very urban childhood and always lived in an apartment building. My family lived in the city too, but my parents loved to travel and take us on family vacations – especially to the beach. When I was a child, we went every summer on to the Northeast region of Brazil, known for its beaches. Every time we arrived, I had this sensation of “coming home,” even though I didn’t grow up there. As a child, we would play a game on the way to see who would be the first person to spot the ocean. I have such joyful and fond memories of that time and always dreamed of living there. As I got older, I started exploring the nature around where I live. Belo Horizonte is surrounded by mountains, with lots of waterfalls and beautiful scenery. When I have free time, I spend it exploring this beautiful country. I find that time spent in nature energizes me.

Q: Were you always conscious of sustainability as a child?

A: As I got older, I started to observe my surroundings and my choices- an ongoing process – but to question some of my choices in society – my consumption patterns. I became increasingly aware that our consumption patterns as a family were not the best and started to do some more research to see how I could make a difference in the environment. I’ve always felt connected to nature, so the environment is one of those causes that really resonates with me. I’m working to understand how we get better in the micro but also in the macro sense.

After school, I went to live in a zero-waste eco-village in the Northeast part of Brazil called Piracanga. It was there that I learned that it’s possible to live a sustainable life with consciousness. I became a vegetarian – a life choice that is very important to me, and learned that true sustainability is not only about what you eat but what you wear, put on your body, etc. At Piracanga, we took the idea of zero-waste to heart. If we used something made from plastic, we would wash it, and put it inside of other plastic containers or bottles until they were full. We’d then use these stuffed bottles as bricks to build houses!

Q: At school your graduation project focused on the recycling system in Brazil.  Can you tell us a bit more about that project and why the subject interested you?

A: In Brazil there are a lot of people that survive by going through other people’s trash and collecting cans and plastic bottles to sell back to the recycling industry through an Intermediator. This is hard work, but the people who do it make close to nothing as collecting a large amount is difficult, and the material is very cheap. For example, if they go and sell kilos of plastic, they earn just a few Reais (Brazilian currency). That intermediator buys from a lot of people and sells in bulk to the recycling industry, making all of the profits. Me and a friend of mine theorized that we could take the power to those individuals who do the hard work by working with associations or groups of them to create a logistical network that would enable them to get that scale and creating bargaining power.

Q: Brazil is the 4th largest producer of plastic in the world, while only 1.4% is recycled. Do you notice your generation is more aware of the plastic Recyling problem?

A: In school – we always had science fairs and events to try and raise awareness through educational projects. There are efforts that are just part of the collective consciousness, including a well-known sea-turtle conservation effort called Tamar. Education efforts were there, but we still witness a huge gap between learning the theory and applying it and actually practicing it in everyday life. The recycling system in Brazil is not effective. When I lived in Germany briefly, I was amazed that every household participated. In Brazil, this is not the case. Now it’s gotten a lot better. There are many different innovations surrounding sustainability and the environment. People are becoming more aware and want to do more. Just today, a company in my city announced a goal to neutralize the carbon emissions of their products. There are also a lot of natural and vegan cosmetics companies popping up. Consciousness is getting better but we have a long way to go.

Q: How did you decide to get into IT and how did you come to work with Okeanos?

A: I’m an Industrial Engineer by trade, but was working as a financial consultant. There, I relied heavily and became familiar with IT solutions. I later went to Europe to travel and participate in volunteer opportunities, and a posted opportunity in Spain piqued my interest. The person who posted the job let me know that they were no longer looking for someone to fill that role, but asked that I stay in touch.  That person ended up being Florencio! I guess he saw something in me that resonated with his philosophy. Like everyone at Okeanos, I want to make the world a better place, and to make our world more sustainable. We had that in common and I thought it was amazing that someone was doing something very proactive to make that happen. I loved the idea from the start and was grateful for any chance to work on this project. It’s easy for me to understand how systems work. I enjoy learning; I’m a professional learner. If I didn’t have to worry about money, I would spend my time taking courses in different subjects. I’d love to learn how to draw, for example.

Q: What is the most challenging and rewarding parts of your role at Okeanos?

A: The most challenging part is to develop the necessary programs and procedures that our different teams on Okeanos need to function efficiently. I have to have the confidence to do everything to the best of my ability and to work with my team to get the job done.  The most rewarding part of my job is collaborating with people all over the world to helping achieve our goals. It’s such a strength for the company to bring together all of these different experiences and perspectives.

Q: What is the most exciting part about the work that Okeanos is doing?

A: The idea that we’re changing the consumer patterns and habits of a whole society. We’re able to bring this to everyone in the world, regardless of where they are or of economics and everyone can be part of the change. The scalability of the project, and that it’s an immediate solution are two very exciting differentiators to me. We are seeing things happen in real time and making tangible change, not only in discourse but in practice.

Q: Did you learn any new skills during quarantine?

A: I tried to learn the ukulele and to learn how to draw! I also tried to learn how to cook – I’ve always enjoyed it, but I amped up my cooking skills.

Want to join our team? Apply here!

We are an ocean of nations, and therefore it is everyone’s responsibility to safeguard the waters that unite us all. While the main goal of Okeanos is to reduce the amount plastic the ends up in our oceans, our hearts are set on a larger goal. In our experience, many charitable organizations are not transparent about the distribution of their funds. That’s not the case here.

Change starts from within; which is why we’ve established our Okeanos Foundation, a program providing opportunities to physically be the change rather than relying solely on making or receiving monetary donations. This program will allow Okeanos’ employees to get paid time off to be part of the experience, and Coral Crew members, consumers, friends, and family to participate in a meaningful way.

We’re honing in on six different areas to create hands-on experiences to drive and stimulate real tangible change – conservation, education, communication, activism, research, and disaster relief.  We’ve carefully selected organizations with noble causes including an organization focused on whale conservation and another working with schools to help educate children on the importance of curbing climate change. We want to ensure these experiences are measurable for both the organizations receiving the support, and those participating in the volunteering experience.  Together, we can make waves of change around the world.

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